Govt. to move with “deliberate haste” on marijuana issue

Minister of Health, Dr. Duane Sands.

While acknowledging the strong push for change on the issue of medical marijuana in The Bahamas, Minister of Health Dr. Duane Sands said yesterday the government will move “with all deliberate haste” to examine the controversial issue and develop a policy position.

However, he stressed there is no need to rush.

“The world is changing, there is no question about it,” Dr. Sands said outside the Churchill Building.

“This is a very fluid process. The lobbying that we are seeing, I believe [it] is very healthy for the country.

“There are people who are pushing for change. They want to see it happen quickly. We are going to move deliberately with all deliberate haste.”

Sands said the process of approving the members of the Bahamas National Commission on Marijuana has been completed at the Cabinet level and a number of stakeholder groups have submitted nominees to join that body.

“Once those are agreed, the first meeting will be held,” he said.

The minister said the government has sought to get wide representation to ensure there is a well-considered view put forward, and not a skewed one.

Asked to what extent the government is prioritizing the issue given the trend across the Caribbean, Sands said, “It’s certainly a priority that this is done properly.

“There is no need I believe to rush into this thing headlong.

“We need to get it right and you need to have the right people at the table.”

In October, Jamaica announced its first legal export of medical marijuana extracted oil to Canada. The shipment represents a milestone in Jamaica establishing a foothold in the growing medical marijuana global industry.

The Caribbean country decriminalized small possession of marijuana in 2015.

Bermuda decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana — seven grams or less — in December 2017.

Antigua and Barbuda did the same in March 2018 for up to 15 grams of cannabis or Cannabis resin.

St. Vincent and the Grenadines have also announced plans to decriminalize marijuana for personal use,

Yesterday, Sands said despite a belief that The Bahamas will be left behind if it takes too long to consider the issue, “I’m not sure that it makes for good policy to rush”.

Asked about the scores of residents and visitors who continue to be hauled before the courts in connection with possession of small amounts of marijuana, Sands said he believes the courts have adopted a progressive view and magistrates have generally moved away from custodial sentences for possession of small amounts of the substance for personal use.

In October, Bahamas National Commission on Marijuana Co-Chair Bishop Simeon Hall said he expects the committee will first approach members of the clergy as part of the commission’s national overview on the issue.

Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis announced in August that Cabinet approved the makeup of a commission to examine the issue of marijuana in The Bahamas and make recommendations to Cabinet.

The recommendations, once completed, will be tabled in Parliament, according to Minnis.

The commission is expected to take approximately three to months to produce that report.

The issue of whether to decriminalize marijuana in the Caribbean was on CARICOM’s agenda.

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