McCartney encourages govt. to move swiftly on cannabis decriminalization

McCartney encourages govt. to move swiftly on cannabis decriminalization
Former Minister of Immigration Branville McCartney

Former DNA leader says Bahamians should have “huge interest” in cannabis industry

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Former Democratic National Alliance (DNA) Leader Branville McCartney has encouraged the government to move “posthaste” to decriminalize cannabis in The Bahamas, insisting there is a huge potential to stimulate the Bahamian economy and create new entrepreneurs in a new industry.

“It is an industry like no other and we certainly need a new industry to put some life into this economy that we have, and I think that is one way of doing it,” said McCartney, who publicly expressed his support for the decriminalization of cannabis in May 2016.

“I would encourage this administration to move posthaste in that regard and the comments made by the prime minister a couple of weeks ago, that he supports that aspect of it, I do hope it comes to fruition.

“Marijuana used for medicinal purposes, I think you will find — if we get it right — that it will become a very, very successful industry and help to boost our economy

“Look at Canada for example. We certainly want to move posthaste on this. We don’t want to be left behind the eight ball. We want to be in a position where it is beneficial in those aspects I just mentioned.”

In the preliminary report of the Bahamas National Commission on Marijuana obtained by Eyewitness News Online, the commission green-lighted recreational and medicinal cannabis, while recommending Bahamians own 51 percent of the industry in a legalized framework.

The report has not been completed and remains under review by the commission.

As it relates to the commission’s recommendation for Bahamians ownership of 51 percent of the potential cannabis industry in The Bahamas, McCartney told Eyewitness News Online it is essential for Bahamians to be owners in the industry, thought he acknowledged the need for “partners from the outside to help and to build it”.

He said: “Pivotal to that industry are Bahamians who should be given the opportunity to invest and be a major shareholders and I would hope — I note that the report speaks about the 51 percent ownership — I guess starting there may be looked at, but there has to be some provision where the Bahamians are given a huge interest and a beneficial interest in the industry.”

Last month, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis called marijuana reform a matter of social justice as he reiterated his support for decriminalizing possession of small amounts and expunging convictions for possession of small quantities.

McCartney said many people convicted of small quantities of cannabis who would have their records potentially expunged would allow them an opportunity for employment, travel and continued education.

According to the commission’s report, law enforcement arrested 6,809 people in The Bahamas for marijuana possession between 2014 and 2018. Of those arrests, the vast majority were associated with marijuana possession solely.

About Royston Jones Jr.

Royston Jones Jr. is a senior digital reporter and occasional TV news anchor at Eyewitness News. Since joining Eyewitness News as a digital reporter in 2018, he has done both digital and broadcast reporting, notably providing the electoral analysis for Eyewitness News’ inaugural election night coverage, “Decision Now 2021”.