NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Minister of Agriculture Michael Pintard yesterday said his ministry is continuing consultations with Bahamian companies over the possibility of a hemp industry, as well as discussing possible locations for growing the crop in the country.
In Parliament last month, Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis announced the government was reviewing the possible legalization of a hemp industry and would advise the public following greater public consultation.
Minnis noted that The Bahamas’ “cannabis laws [are] outdated and must change”.
Speaking to Eyewitness News on the matter, Pintard said it is expected that his ministry will present a Cabinet paper in January for approval following further research.
“What we have done is began a discussion in earnest about how do we go about establishing zones,” he said.
Pintard noted the necessity of these zones is to position those crops in areas that will not interfere with the possibility of cannabis being planted anywhere in the vicinity, to avoid any possibility of cross-pollination.
“We will have to consider whether or not industrial hemp is grown on certain islands, that would not necessarily be in play, in the event that the Cabinet makes a decision that cannabis is going to be in the offering as a sector.”
The agriculture minister said meetings being held with various groups that have expressed interest in entering the industrial hemp industry have revealed that several of the groups have majority Bahamian shareholders in either the parent company or in the subsidiary.
He noted his ministry has been “pleasantly surprised” that those groups have also indicated they have the necessary resources, startup costs or strategic partnerships to fund their projects.
“The primary thing that they are interested in is to make sure we have a strong regulatory environment that is anchored in world-class legislation and that we might also consider strategic partnerships in terms of land-lease arrangements,” Pintard said.
Hemp is a strain of the cannabis plant that does not possess the intoxicating cannabinoid THC, which causes euphoria and is commonly associated with marijuana.
Derivatives of the strain and its widely recognized health benefits have an extensive range of industrial uses and health benefits.
Pintard added that the manufacturing of CBD (cannabidiol) products is also being discussed and considered.
“We believe there is strong medicinal value for CBD products and we believe there are branding opportunities as well that The Bahamas can benefit from, given that we ourselves have a strong brand as a country.”
The Economic Recovery Committee’s executive summary report, which the prime minister tabled this week, recommended the full legalization of cannabis for medicinal, religious and recreational use with regulatory controls that would allow for the production, manufacture, sale, consumption and exportation of the substance.
It recommended the government implement a “hybrid approach that includes decriminalization for small amounts and legalization with strict regulatory control” for economic growth.