Earlier this week, the U.S. DEA and the Royal Bahamian Police Force raided a cannabis farm on Grand Bahama

Billions in Revenue?
Millions of Tourist Arrivals?
Bahamian Gov't Says No to Opportunities of Legalisation.

With Canada and the U.S. making tens of billions of dollars from legal cannabis, how does the archaic prohibition of The Bahamas impinge on Bahamian competitiveness?  What does it mean when the U.S. sends DEA agents to eradicate Bahamian cannabis, even as American companies openly grow millions of plants across the United States?

Brian Lucky

Brian Lucky


1 January 2019

Major U.S. tourism destinations — including Los Angeles, Las Vegas, San Francisco, D.C., Boston, Seattle, Denver, and Portland — sell legal cannabis to their visitors. All of Canada’s provinces offer it. The wealthiest families are making vast fortunes on “420 stocks.” Already, the value of the North American cannabis industry equals the combined total of the Bahamian and Barbadian economies.

Below, two different models for meeting demand for  cannabis.  Left: The Canadian and emerging U.S. model; legalisation.  Merchants pay taxes, no violence exists, and minors are barred from purchase.  Right: The Bahamian model; prohibition.  No taxes are paid; thugs have the resources to bribe officials and install structural corruption; gangs wage urban war for control of the black market; anyone of any age can purchase anything for sale, including hard drugs.

Meanwhile, in The Bahamas, U.S. DEA agents and their counterparts in the Royal Bahamian Police Force (RBPF) are chasing after local growers, 1985-style. This week the agencies proudly announced a raid on a cannabis farm in Grand Bahama.  This operation was as fresh and innovative as a round of ski joring. (Ski joring was briefly an Olympic sport where skiers were pulled along by horses.)

Is The Bahamas upholding a key alliance by persisting with this anachronistic crusade? Or is it playing the fool while its neighbors to the north laugh their way to the bank?

Given that tourism constitutes the central pillar of the Bahamian economy — the sector that saves families from a life of misery — the cannabis question requires urgent consideration. In 2019, cannabis can hardly be seen as a taboo or a fringe issue; rather, it constitutes a strategic priority. More accurately, it should have been the priority in 2010; at this point it’s key that The Bahamas not fall even further behind.

With so many excellent tourist attractions, why would The Bahamas want to reject millions of additional tourist arrivals, exacerbate crime, and worsen poverty?  All of that for the sake of upholding a discredited 20th Century lie?

San Salvador Island, The Bahamas
Cabbage Beach, Paradise Island
Fort Fincastle, Nassau, The Bahamas
View from Fort Fincastle, Nassau, The Bahamas

Irrefutable quantitative data underline the tremendous lost opportunity linked to prohibition. Colorado has enjoyed tens of millions of additional tourist arrivals as a direct consequence of its legalisation in 2014. The state’s businesses have taken in billions of dollars in additional revenue and paid hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes. Already, at least one major destination in Colorado is making more money from legal cannabis than from alcohol.

Subsequent legalisation in Washington State, the number of children using cannabis has seen an enormous reduction.  In Colorado there has also been a reduction in use among youth, although the drop was smaller than in Washington State.

In other words, U.S. states are making tens of billions of dollars from legal cannabis, simultaneously reducing use among children, and no longer flushing billions down the toilet on useless incarcerations and police expenditures. The states have replaced the gang violence of the black market with normal commerce and tax collection. Police now have the resources to suppress real crimes: murder, rape, robbery and fraud.

All of these legalisation-related issues of crime and tourism are extremely relevant to The Bahamas. In fact, for a tourism-dependent country, for a society greatly affected by violent crime, they are more relevant to The Bahamas than they are to the United States itself.

The Bahamas needs those extra millions of tourist arrivals. Shunning this opportunity, pretending that nothing has been learned since the 1970s, leaving thousands of Bahamians in soul-crushing poverty — that is an immoral, indefensible policy of backwardness. Furthermore, since quantitative data clearly show that legalisation reduces childhood use of cannabis, prohibition has no claim whatsoever to any sort of moral high ground; rather, its only basis is sheer ignorance and cowardice.

Another crucial consideration, as mentioned above, is real crime. Those police elements that have been chasing growers and looking for plants must be redeployed to secure the streets. The prisons must clear out space to make room for legitimate criminals, finally to remove vicious psychopaths from a traumatized Bahamian society.

The headlines are full of complaints from the Ministry of Tourism lamenting the foreign governments and the travel companies that warn people about the real threat of crime in The Bahamas. Perhaps actually reducing crime would constitute a better solution than pitiful complaining. With legalisation constituting an undeniable, proven, and incredibly-obvious solution, no excuse exists for persisting with anachronistic prohibition in conjunction with lame whining.

Moreover, survey data point to the future inevitability of cannabis legalisation throughout North America. The younger generations simply refuse to accept the discredited narrative of prohibition as some kind of noble and necessary eternal crusade. Even the oldest members of society are opening their eyes to reality, especially in light of the positive outcomes in jurisdictions that have already legalised.

Given the certitude of eventual legalisation, the questions become: how many billions of dollars in potential earnings must be lost while politicians gather the courage to face the truth? How many thousands of families must remain in unnecessary poverty? How many thousands of children will turn to cannabis and hard drugs in the wild black market of prohibition? How many kids must be killed by stray bullets while thugs fight for control over the illegal trade? How many citizens must be murdered or raped because the police are too busy with their eternal search for plants and growers?

In view of the disaster of the current policy of prohibition, could things get any worse? To add insult to injury, The Bahamas allows foreign agents to help implement this disgraceful vestige of 20th Century ignorance: a humiliation vis-à-vis Bahamian sovereignty. As if this were not enough, the foreign country implicated, the United States, has largely adopted the opposite policy for its own citizens.  Indeed, a large percentage of the U.S. population now enjoys the benefits of legalisation: safety and wealth. Even as American agents in The Bahamas impose prohibition-linked black market gang violence and poverty, back in the U.S. the antithetical situation prevails in their home communities. “Poverty and violence for you; riches and safety for us.”