BE PATIENT: AG says marijuana legislation still being drafted

BE PATIENT: AG says marijuana legislation still being drafted
(FILE PHOTO)

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Draftspersons in the Office of the Attorney General continue to work on legislation that will pave the way to a regularized medicinal marijuana framework in The Bahamas with growing and export provisions, according to Attorney General Carl Bethel.

When contacted on the completion of the legislation, Bethel told Eyewitness News: “No, it’s not done. My people have been working hard all weekend… Just be patient. All will be well. But we were working on that all weekend.”

Eyewitness News understands the government intends to table the legislation after Lent.

Attorney General Carl Bethel. (FILE PHOTO)

Earlier this month, the attorney general said draftspersons were in possession of marijuana legislation from around the region that could guide The Bahamas’ legislative framework.

Former Governor General Sir Arthur has said the regulation of medicinal marijuana in The Bahamas “could be a blessing to some people”.

He said: “I think that is a good thing and it is long overdue.”

Prior to Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis’ announcement last month that the government will introduce legislation in Parliament to legalize the medicinal use and growing of the substance, a draft bill on marijuana was expected to be presented to Cabinet mid-last year.

In July 2020, the attorney general said a bill on marijuana legislation was expected to be presented to Cabinet “in short order”.

While the prime minister’s announcements may have changed the scope of the legislation being drafted, both government-appointed committees to review marijuana specifically and the economy have green-lighted the substance in December 2019 and October 2020 respectively.

The Bahamas National Commission on Marijuana (BNCM) recommended that marijuana be decriminalized and that individuals be allowed to have a maximum of one ounce of the substance in their possession without prosecution.

The commission also recommended medicinal, recreational and religious use of the substance and put emphasis on Bahamians owning 51 percent of the industry in a legalized framework.

It stopped short of recommending legalization for recreational use.

Meanwhile, the Economic Recovery Committee recommended the government legalize the cannabis industry in The Bahamas with strict controls that would allow production, consumption and exportation of the plant.

Numerous countries in the Caribbean have adopted varied approaches to cannabis, with some decriminalizing or moving toward decriminalization or outright liberalizing the use of the substance.

In October 2019, BNCM Co-chair Quinn McCartney projected The Bahamas could see some form of regulation not dissimilar to Jamaica’s heavily regulated model, within a short period of time.

The global market of cannabis is estimated to be worth $50 billion within the next decade.

Jamaica has capitalized on the industry, with local farmers cultivating approximately 15,000 hectares of cannabis per year, according to the United States State Department.

The Bahamas’ neighbor decriminalized marijuana in 2015.