Public Domain contracted to conduct marijuana commission survey
NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Bahamas National Commission on Marijuana (BNMC) Chairman Quinn McCartney said yesterday the United Nations’ (UN) removal of cannabis from its list of dangerous drugs signals the likelihood of the global legalization of cannabis.
McCartney’s comments follow a historic vote at the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs on Wednesday, to remove cannabis and cannabis resin from its list of the “world’s most dangerous drugs”.
The commission voted 27-25, with one abstention, to follow the World Health Organization’s recommendation to remove cannabis and cannabis resin from Schedule IV of the 1961 Convention on Narcotic Drugs, where it was listed with heroin and several other opioids.
The Associated Press noted, however, that the vote “does not clear UN member nations to legalize marijuana under the international drug control system”.
In an interview with Eyewitness News, McCartney said the vote was consistent with the commission’s view to prioritize medicinal marijuana.
“The commission supports the view that our law should be amended to facilitate easy access to medical cannabis products for use in The Bahamas,” he said.
“It didn’t go as far as full-scale legalization and that’s kind of consistent, too, with the views of some of the commissioners… Certainly, it changes the dynamics or it will cause, most likely, The Bahamas to rethink its views on this topic.”
McCartney noted that countries to the south and north of The Bahamas are moving towards legalization and that will have to be taken into consideration as the country rethinks its position on a number of things.
“It’s a historic vote. It’s an interesting vote and I suspect it’s the first step of an international journey towards the global acceptance or global full legalization of cannabis.”
Among the 24 recommendations put forth in the BNCM’s preliminary report tabled last year January, the commission has suggested cannabis possession be decriminalized up to one ounce or less for personal use for people 21 years or older, and laws would be amended for the immediate expungement of small possession criminal records.
The commission stopped short of recommending the legalization of recreational marijuana, insisting the issue needs to be explored further before a consensus can be garnered.
While the prime minister has publicly voiced his support for the decriminalization of small amounts of marijuana, the attorney general has advised that The Bahamas remains challenged on the issue as long as the drug remains illegal at the United States federal level.
McCartney noted yesterday that full-scale legalization in the US remains an important factor, given concerns of banking with the country.
“There must be that ability to freely exchange and do transactions in the global market and so as long as the United States is not synchronized with the rest of the world or the rest of the world is synchronized with the United States, there may be some challenges,” he said.
“I’m certain it will cause the US to also rethink its federal position.”
The commission’s final report was expected to be presented following a national survey to codify the views of the Bahamian public on the matter, however, the local spread of the novel coronavirus has derailed most of the government’s plans.
McCartney advised yesterday that that survey has been implemented and is underway with Bahamian market and opinion research firm Public Domain.
He, however, could not indicate when the data would be analyzed and completed.
McCartney noted that while the commission had initially proposed the survey be conducted by the Department of Statistics, that plan was no longer feasible given the current pandemic.
He would not reveal how much the commission paid Public Domain to conduct the survey.
“It’ll be worth the cost and I think we will get value for money.”
Seventy-one percent of respondents who participated in a June 2018 Public Domain survey said they believed marijuana should be legalized for medicinal purposes.
Public Domain has released two surveys to date surrounding marijuana legalization.