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Govt likely to be conservative on marijuana issue, Gomez says

Guardian Staff Reporter

Published: Oct 11, 2013

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Reducing the number of years for the possession of small amounts of marijuana in The Bahamas would unclog the criminal justice system, State Minister for Legal Affairs Damian Gomez said yesterday.

Gomez was asked to respond to recent international trends concerning marijuana usage.

The Central and South Eleuthera MP made it clear though that the government has made no decision on the issue.

“The advantage of it is you don’t clog up your court system with a lot of matters that are really not as serious as others,” Gomez said when asked his views.

“So it’s being recognized regionally and globally.

“There are other countries, which have actually abolished it as an offense. We haven’t decided to go that far, but that is the modern trend internationally.”

Gomez said the government has not spoken to the issue specifically.

“We tend to be conservative,” he noted.

“It is likely that Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica will be at the forefront of the issue and we will be the last to move.”

Recently, St. Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves asked the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) to discuss the medicinal and other uses of marijuana, according to an article appearing on Caribbean360.com.

“I think that it is high time that CARICOM address, regionally, this matter in a sensible, focussed, non-hysterical manner,” Gonsalves said.

In The Bahamas, the mandatory minimum sentence for drug possession with intent to supply is four years.

Bishop Simeon Hall, who headed the Crime Commission under the Ingraham administration, said he does not support legalizing marijuana.

“I don’t support that,” he said yesterday, when called for comment. “I think it will be the beginning of the opening of the Pandora’s box.

“There is a discussion that some forms of marijuana are helping for medicinal use. I guess you might have to get that from credible doctors.”

In terms of the law though, Hall said he believes the penalties are too stiff for individuals caught with small quantities of the drug.

“I think the use of marijuana for medicinal use... is far different from the fellow who has a joint or the one who brings in 20 bales,” he said.

“I think the young man who has a joint in his hand, I think to put him in jail and ruin his life forever is a bit extreme. I think there should be community service.

“But the guy who brings in the bales is a different story. I think people who bring in the drugs are committing treason. That’s how extreme I feel, whereas the fellow with the joint, I think community service is a better remedy than jail time.”

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