Police in the Bahamas have recovered $4 million of marijuana in a week, amid growing calls in the Caribbean for legalization of the drug.
Officers from the Caribbean nation's Drug Enforcement Unit (DEU) captured more than a ton of marijuana -- valued at approximately $2.3 million -- in Farmer's Cay on September 27, reported Tribune 242.
The bust came less than a week after $1.7 million of marijuana was found in the Ragged Island chain and less than two weeks after 20,000 marijuana plants were found growing outside the nation's capital, Nassau, reported the Nassau Guardian.
The recoveries come amid a growing debate in the Caribbean over the legal status of marijuana, with St Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves pushing for a discussion of legalization and decriminalization among the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), a debate that the grouping has agreed to investigate and present findings on in February 2014.
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While generally not a major source of drugs produced for export, the Bahamas is a significant transshipment point for both cocaine and marijuana because of its proximity to the United States. The Caribbean nation provides "near ideal" conditions for smuggling, according to the State Department's 2013 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), as smugglers "readily blend in among the armada of pleasure craft" travelling through the near 700 islands and cays.
The expansive geography and limited funding makes interdiction difficult for Bahamian law enforcement. The US Coast Guard has cooperated with local security forces to engage in Operation Bahamas, Turks and Caicos (OPBAT), which in 2012 led to the seizure of 236 kilos of cocaine, 162 tons of marijuana and 201 arrests.
Calls for serious consideration of marijuana law reform are gaining traction among Caribbean nations, especially following the decision by CARICOM to investigate the possibility of decriminalization. However, with the US government opposed to marijuana law reform at the federal level, any move towards decriminalization in the Caribbean would likely draw considerable opposition from the United States.