NASSAU, BAHAMAS – Having resigned his Cabinet post earlier this week, Brent Symonette, the former Minister of Financial Services, Trade & Industry and Immigration expressed on Thursday that he is in support of decriminalizing marijuana. But he also padded his views with a word of caution on how vitally important proper research and debate is before the government makes a decision on whether or not to legalize the herb.
According to Symonette, legalizing marijuana would relieve many citizens of petty arrests and criminal records because they had possession of the drug.
“You get a person caught with one joint on the cruise ship, why do we take him off the cruise ship and put them in our jails? Why do we get the fellas smoking a joint? And why should those people have a record? So, I think we should do a lot in that area.”
Symonette, whose father died of cancer in the 1980s, said he believes that anything that can be done to limit the discomfort people may feel when experiencing a health issue, is a crucial reason for him throwing his support behind the legalization of marijuana.
“I watched a slow death,” Symonette lamented. “You know, to keep people out of pain, why not?”
The national debate on the impact of legalizing marijuana has received controversy for well over a year now. Last year, the CARICOM Regional Commission on Marijuana reported that the drug should be decriminalized and reclassified as a controlled substance.
While many supporters have voiced irritation over the length of time it has taken the government to come up with a decision on the matter, opponents, like President of The Bahamas Christian Council, Bishop Delton Fernander said there must be proper consultation when deciding on something as contentious as legalization.
“We weren’t even ready for alcohol,” Fernander said. “We had no A.A. [alcoholics anonymous], we still don’t have the things that are necessary for those that have become addicted to the drug. We need to put the systems in place.”
Fernander also warned that it is important for the government to do its best in making sure that certain groups of people do not feel slighted.
“Somebody’s going to feel disenfranchised,” he said. “We’ve already seen with the Rastafarian movement, they’ve decided to pull back on their legal action. But it is a case where everybody wants something different.”
The Marijuana Commission, a group that has received national feedback on the issue of legalization within the country, is expected to report its findings to the government in September.
The Government will then review those findings and make its final decision on the herb.
This article was written by Marechan Burrows – Eyewitness News Intern.