By Jasper Ward
NASSAU, Bahamas – The Bahamas National Commission on Marijuana, in a preliminary report, recommends the legalization of medicinal marijuana and the decriminalization of the possession of up to one ounce of the substance. The 98-page report, which was viewed by The Nassau Guardian, is still under review by the commission.
It is unclear when the document will be finalized. However, the report notes, “Marijuana should be decriminalized and persons should be allowed to have a maximum of one ounce in their possession without prosecution. “The allowable one ounce of marijuana may be subject to increase after a review of implementation.”
It adds, “Recreational marijuana should be permitted for adults over 21 years and medicinal marijuana should be permitted for adults over 18 years of age.”
According to the report, there should be an amendment of legislation to “allow cultivation maximum of five plants per household, clearly defining cultivation and household (for persons with medical marijuana [cards])”.
The report proposes the expungement of all police records reflecting possessions of small amounts of cannabis. It notes that the public “generally felt” that small amounts of marijuana should not result in jail time.
In July 2018, the CARICOM Regional Commission on Marijuana recommended the declassification of marijuana as a dangerous drug in all legislation and the reclassification of the drug as a controlled substance, noting it should be treated similarly to tobacco and alcohol.
One month later, Cabinet approved the makeup of a commission that is tasked with examining the issue of marijuana in The Bahamas in order to make recommendations to the government. Its recommendations are expected to be tabled and discussed in parliament.
The Bahamas National Commission on Marijuana was initially given until April to submit its findings. However, it has been granted several extensions.
The commission’s draft report recommends the use of marijuana as a sacrament for Rastafarians. “The Bahamas government may wish to consider granting Rastafarian the right to use cannabis for religious use in privacy,” the report notes.
“Further, based on the commission’s visit to Rasta camps in both Jamaica and The Bahamas, it is recommended that members of the Rasta community are consulted for input on the production of medical/therapeutic cannabis in The Bahamas.” It said members of the Rastafarian community should be “required” to set up a Rasta council.
The council would “advise the government on the names of persons who have been clearly identified as Rastas”, according to the report.
The document also proposes that Bahamians have “ownership” of the cannabis industry. “Fifty-one percent ownership by Bahamians in private companies that will be allowed to partner with a foreign company who can only hold a maximum of 49 percent equity,” the report notes.
It adds, “The industry should not be taxed heavily. A corporate tax can be imposed at a rate of five to 10 percent that is to be reviewed annually or bi-annually.”
The document recommends that marijuana be used for medicinal and therapeutic purposes. A “majority” of individuals surveyed were in favor of the medicinal use of marijuana, according to the report.
The report also recommends the drafting of legislation “that does not obligate a patient taking medical marijuana to advise the supervisor unless there are expected side effects”.
It advises the government to draft legislation “to protect patients, who must take marijuana for their illness, from undue stress, company drug testing policies, unnecessary prosecution in the work environment [and] termination”.
The document notes that there needs to be a determination of the “optimum quantity of marijuana plants a patient can cultivate bearing in mind that some conditions require various CBD and THC levels and amounts, [and] there are three phases of the growth (e.g. seedling, immature plants, and mature plants)”.
The report proposes amending the Dangerous Drugs Act “to administer and govern the medicinal use of marijuana”. It also proposes the creation of medical marijuana cards.
The report recommends “a nationwide educational campaign regarding cannabis”.
“…All its aspects should be formally launched so the general public may better understand the issue,” it notes. “The educational campaign should include sustained culturally appropriate content (songs, videos, face-to-face interactions) that would target, in particular, young adults and children.”
Prime minister Dr Hubert Minnis has said that if marijuana is decriminalized, the government would embark on a “vigorous” education campaign. Last month, he said the campaign would be aimed at different sectors of society, including high school students. “I think education is very, very important,” the prime minister said.
“We must advance or commence some educational process so that our young people, our families, everyone would understand the whole process, understand what we’re doing, understand how it may benefit you, etc. “The problems with society [are] not necessarily marijuana or alcohol. The problem is the upbringing.”
On Tuesday, education minister Jeffrey Lloyd said he supports the “enhancement of the education program” to include substances like marijuana.
Republished with permission of the Nassau Guardian