NASSAU, BAHAMAS – Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis yesterday defended his decision to remove the Bahamas National Commission on Marijuana out of the remit of the Ministry of Health, after the commission’s preliminary report was leaked to the media.
Minnis also hit out at Opposition Leader Philip Davis, who recently questioned the prime minister’s commitment to transparency and accountability after the move.
“Regrettably, an incomplete version of this report was leaked,” said Minnis, during the handover of the BNCM’s official report at a press conference at the Office of the Prime Minister.
“We now have the full report.
“The leader of the opposition knows or ought to know that protecting the integrity of an ongoing and incomplete inquiry is the proper way a government should function and is in no way an attempt to avoid transparency.
“Indeed, the commission’s official findings will be made public and the report will be discussed in the public domain.
“We welcome the input of Bahamians as we make these long-needed changes to our marijuana laws.”
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.
Following the leak of the report, Minnis said he was “disturbed” and “upset”, adding that the premature release of the document compromised the commission’s work.
In an interview with a local media house last week, Davis said the transfer of the commission showed “the hypocrisy of this government” and questioned why the prime minister was concerned about the workings of the commission.
“On the one hand they are saying they are opened and transparent,” he said.
“But on the other hand they want to hide information from the public, and he is the lead culprit in that. That’s why he is going to take the report from the Minister of Health and keep it in his bosom.
Minnis yesterday also directed comments toward former Prime Minister Perry Christie, who recently told Eyewitness News that he has no regrets on his administrations not moving on the matter sooner.
“There are those who say they support marijuana reform,” Minnis said.
“When they were in office they did nothing, yet they have all manner of big talk now despite their glaring failures to act when they had the opportunity to help those burdened by criminal convictions for small amounts of marijuana possession.
“The work of social justice is about action not about endless and empty talk from those who failed to act decisively when last in office.
“My government will make changes guided by this document and the views of Bahamians.
“We will bring relief and hope to many Bahamians.
“The time has come.”
Christie, who expressed his support for medicinal marijuana after leaving office, stressed that 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.