Commission points out expungement of records is not automatic process
NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Law enforcement arrested 6,809 people in The Bahamas for marijuana possession between 2014 and 2018, according to data contained in the preliminary report of The Bahamas National Commission on Marijuana.
Of those arrests, the vast majority were associated with marijuana possession solely.
According to the data, 4,280 or 62 percent were arrested for possession, while 2,452 people or 36 percent were arrested for possession with intent to supply. Fifty-seven people or less than one percent arrested during the period were for cultivation.
Another two people were arrested for possession of marijuana capsules; 11 for baked goods; five for importation and two for conspiracy to import, the report indicates.
The law prohibits the possession, cultivation, importation, exportation and sale of Indian Hemp cannabis, but does not expressly prohibited the use of Indian Hemp, the report notes.
“This is consistent with the fact that no arrests can be made on routine stops by law enforcement simply on the basis that the scent of Indian Hemp emanated from the vehicle or on that individual, and/or that the individual physically appeared to have been under the influence of Indian Hemp,” read the report.
“Evidence must exist of the individual’s possession of the plant which includes undergoing tests verifying its content.
“Additionally, there is no prohibition of being in possession of paraphernalia or utensil associated with the use or consumption of Indian Hemp.”
The marijuana report, which has been completed by the commission and handed over to the substantive minister, addresses the medical, industrial, economic, religious and recreational use of cannabis, as well as research and development that would codify Bahamian attitudes on the substance.
The commission was formed last year.
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.
Before the courts, offenders who have not been reconvicted of any serious offence for periods of years can be rehabilitated. The rehabilitation period to a conviction for an indictable offence is 10 years and for a summary offence or an indictable offence tried summarily, the applicable rehabilitation is five years, the report notes.
Additionally, in cases of underaged offenders, the applicable rehabilitation is 2.5 years.
Offenders convicted of possession with intent to supply are excluded from rehabilitation under the act.
In 2015, Parliament removed arbitrary powers from a public officer to determine the rehabilitation of an offender and established a Rehabilitation of Offenders committee to mainly hear applications of young offenders and first-time offenders, result in them making recommendations to the minister, who then reviews their decision and approves or rejects the application of the committee.
Once approved, the individual is treated as having been rehabilitated and his or her conviction is treated as spent.
“The commission notes that although this legislation exists and removes convictions from an individual’s criminal record, this is not an automatic process as outlined above, and does not provide for a definite or absolute grant of rehabilitation and spent convictions for the purposes of this act,” read the report.
“Furthermore, the act clearly outlines that an application for rehabilitation cannot commence until completion of any and all sentences imposed.”
The report notes the Sandilands Rehabilitation Centre in New Providence is the primary government in-patient mental health treatment centre in The Bahamas, though a similar facility exists in Grand Bahama.
According to data sourced from the Bahamas National Household Drug Prevalence Survey Report between 2016 and 2018, the leading cause of drug-related admissions for mental and behavioral disorders was due to cannabis use (46 percent of admissions), followed by alcohol (37 percent of admissions); then cocaine (nine percent of admissions) and crack cocaine (eight percent of admissions to the facility).