NASSAU, BAHAMAS – Exumas and Ragged Island MP Chester Cooper yesterday called on the prime minister to “act on his convictions and lead” following his public support for the decriminalization of marijuana.
Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis confirmed his support of the move last week, most recently calling national reform a matter of social justice.
However, in a statment yesterday, Cooper said the prime minister is “late again”.
“The prime minister must do more than talk,” Cooper said.
“It is his duty to act on his convictions and lead.
“The prime minister should have already directed his attorney general to draft the necessary legal reforms. And they should be brought to Parliament.
Cooper continued: “I am ready to debate this issue in the House of Assembly at any time.
“We need to move on from this punitive practice of denying those in need of medical treatment.
“We must end this persecution of those who are only interested in using marijuana for recreational and religious practices.”
Following the 39th Regular Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) in July 2018, Minnis announced the government was establishing a committee to gauge public opinion on cannabis.
The announcement was made after the Regional Commission on Marijuana presented its report to CARICOM, putting forward the view that in a regulated framework marijuana should be treated similarly to tobacco and alcohol.
The Bahamas National Committee on Marijuana is expected to deliver its highly-anticipated report in a matter of days.
Cooper yesterday maintained his personal and party support to regularize the substance.
“While many Bahamians suffered, and continue to so do, under a condemnable policy and statute approach, the government dithers awaiting a delayed report from the marijuana commission,” he continued.
“The same commission the prime minister says he does not expect to report anything significantly different from the CARICOM Commission on Marijuana.”
Cooper said: “That commission has come to the same conclusion as I have, and now the prime minister; marijuana should be treated as a controlled substance and not a dangerous drug.
“The Free National Movement has sat on its hands while the Rehabilitation of Offenders Committee, the law governing such being created, passed and gazetted by the Progressive Liberal Party, remained unconstituted.”
If regularized, Cooper said there should be a sensible framework of the development of the industry in order to encourage Bahamian entrepreneurship.
He suggested there be a process for the safe and monitored growing of marijuana in The Bahamas by Bahamians in order to steer people away from the illegal trade.
He went on to recommend the use of marijuana be done in private, that the public use of the substance be subject to ticketing and that laws be passed to ensure people driving, piloting, working in the public service or operating dangerous equipment are not under the influence of marijuana.
“We can use many different models from throughout the region and the world to figure out the best regime moving forward,” Cooper said.
“We must also engage in dialogue with our international partners, in particular the United States of America, to sensitize them to our intentions and seek their cooperation in continuing to combat the illicit drug trade.
“We can approach this a sensible, mature manner that actually benefits The Bahamas.
Cooper said: “It is my sincere hope that though late, the prime minister is serious about this issue.
“It would be a shame if we continue to tarry much longer while Bahamians are disadvantaged.”