NASSAU, BAHAMAS — The Bahamas National Commission on Marijuana (BNMC) is expected to reconvene today for the first time since March.
The commission plans to discuss the way forward for the completion of its recommendations on the legalization of marijuana in The Bahamas, Eyewitness News was told.
The group’s preliminary report was tabled in Parliament in early February and recommended that marijuana be decriminalized and persons be allowed to have a maximum of one ounce of the substance in their possession without prosecution.
Its 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 virus has derailed those plans.
Commission co-chair Quinn McCartney said there are mixed views that a local marijuana industry could create an economic stimulus for the country.
“Certainly, we will be looking at all aspects of the industry,” he said, as he spoke about the continued work of the commission.
“…In light of what has happened because of the COVID19 situations, I’m sure that the economic implications for our country will be looked at now.”
In June, Attorney General Carl Bethel told The Tribune that a draft bill on marijuana legislation was being prepared.
Bethel said the draft bill was expected to be presented to Cabinet “in very short order”.
Yesterday, McCartney said the commission has not been actively involved in any discussions regarding any new legislation, notwithstanding it’s preliminary report.
“We could only hope that the few recommendations…in terms of changes to our laws, that they are the things that are being considered,” he said.
“I suspect that no matter what the rest of the government sides go into there will have to be changes in legislation.
“We are pleased to hear that. To what extent these changes are or to how extensive these changes are we are not aware of.”
McCartney said the commission is expected to meet today to discuss the way forward – of which the survey is high on the agenda.
“We are only now in the process of reconvening to see where we go from here”, he said.
“Things have changed of course, but a major outstanding issue is the survey.
“…How we conduct the survey may change depending on social distancing and protocols and a lot of the businesses would have suspended their operations, and so we will determine how we go ahead with the survey.
“The intent is once we get the results of our survey, we will conclude our report and add any additional information that we may not have had in the preliminary report, and then we will submit our findings to the government for consideration.”
While the survey was scheduled to be completed by mid-April, the country has been in a state of emergency since March 17.
Among its 24 recommendations, the BNCM has advised the government to allow those prescribed medical cannabis to be able to grow sufficient plants for their use; to allow tourists who are prescribed medical cannabis in their countries to obtain it in The Bahamas, and to allow the importation of regulated cannabis products for ailments.
Cannabis possession would 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 that the issue needs to be explored further before a consensus can be garnered.