Christie: No regrets not moving sooner on cannabis

Christie: No regrets not moving sooner on cannabis
Former prime minister, Perry Christie.

NASSAU, BAHAMAS – As the Minnis administration inches closer to its decision on marijuana regulation, former Prime Minister Perry Christie maintained he has no regrets not moving on it sooner.

However, Christie stressed The Bahamas must now conform to the global requirements that exist, as parts of America, Canada, Europe and countries throughout the Caribbean have moved legislation on the substance.

The former prime minister spoke to Eyewitness News following the Ecumenical Service in observance of Majority Rule Day at Christ Church Cathedral on Friday.

“The region appointed a committee to try to develop a regional position because it’s very important as America go through its own sovereign consideration of what is best for America,” Christie said.

“Being that we are the closest offshore country to America, it has implications where the federal government still outlaws it, and it therefore becomes very important for the government of The Bahamas, to be tied  to what is happening in the region, [and] to recognize the medicinal value of marijuana, and use the science of marijuana to ensure that we put our best step forward in that regard.

“I think the government, the opposition seems to be united in that regard.

“And so what’s important is that we be very careful as we move forward on ensuring that we are conforming with international requirements, and not going beyond that at this time.”

In July 2018, CARICOM’s Regional Commission on Marijuana put forward the view that in a regulated framework, marijuana should be treated similarly to tobacco and alcohol.

The commission presented its report to the 39th Regular Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), after months of canvasing people in the region, including a town hall held in New Providence in January 2018.

When he returned from the CARICOM meeting, Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis announced the government was establishing the Bahamas National Commission on Marijuana to gauge public opinion on cannabis.

Minnis has since confirmed his support of decriminalization in several interviews despite previously indicating he did want to force his personal views on the public.

In its preliminary report, obtained by Eyewitness News last month, the commission recommended that marijuana be decriminalized and persons be allowed to have a maximum of one ounce of the substance in their possession without prosecution.

It also puts forth recommendations for medicinal, recreational and sacramental use of the substance.

Several parts of the report have not yet been completed and remain under review by the commission. It remains unclear when it is expected to be fully completed.

Last month, Minnis called marijuana reform a matter of social justice as he reiterated his support for decriminalizing possession of small amounts and expunging convictions.

Asked whether he has any regrets on his past administrations failing to move on the controversial matter, Christie said: “It’s all in progress. It’s all been evolving as we go on.

“…For example, there are banking difficulties if we were to legalize it, there are banking difficulties in the states.”

Christie said: “And so this is why I’m say for the purposes of The Bahamas, we must be very careful as we move forward to ensure that we conform with the global requirements that exist.

“We see Canada progressing. We see certain parts of the United states progressing. But we must conform with the regional position. We must conform with our own position in terms of what is right.

“And I just say this, we know for example that in approving medicinal use, that we are on the right way.”