NASSAU, BAHAMAS – Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis yesterday called marijuana reform a matter of social justice as he reiterated his support for decriminalizing possession of small amounts and expunging convictions.
Minnis insisted his public support for decriminalizing marijuana will not influence the final report of the Bahamas National Commission on Marijuana (BNCM) during an interview with Eyewitness News.
The BNCM expects to deliver its highly-anticipated report in a matter of days.
Yesterday, Minnis said: “My decision will not influence that report. They are doing their work and they would do their work and I await their report.”
The prime minister confirmed his support of decriminalization in two separate interviews last week despite previously indicating he did want to force his personal views on the public.
In a statement released yesterday, he reiterated this stance and deepened his support for the records of Bahamians, who were convicted of possession of small amounts of the substance, to be expunged.
“Our laws regarding the possession of small amounts of marijuana have unfortunately led to the arrest, prosecution, conviction and punishment of many Bahamians,” he said in a statement.
“Some of these people have been burdened with criminal records, making travel and finding work more difficult.
“Reforming our marijuana laws and changing how we treat people with small possession convictions is a matter of social justice.
“I support expunging the records of Bahamians convicted of possession of small amounts of marijuana. They deserve to move on with their lives free and clear of a criminal conviction.”
Elaborating on his support in a later interview, Minnis said: “A lot of our young people, especially those who work week to week with government cannot be regularized.
“Individuals cannot get jobs. Individuals cannot travel. These are individuals who can make contributions to society, who complain every day that they want to make contributions, they want to go to university, etc. and this one element holds them back.
“I think if we truly want to protect our society, we look and see what’s happening around the world and we have similar situations,” he continued.
“We talk about the young people are our future, we should at least give them an opportunity.
“They [may have] made one mistake with just a joint. In many instances they may have just had it and experimenting.”
Following the 39th Regular Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) in July 2018, Minnis announced the government was establishing a committee to gauge public opinion on cannabis.
“I am first and foremost a doctor, so my views are more medicinal; my views are more research, but the matter has to be discussed,” he said at the time.
“I am not going to throw my views down anyone’s throat. I would give them the facts. My colleagues will give them the facts.
“They will read the facts and they will make up their own minds.
“But, I will not force my views on anybody.”
These comments came after the Regional Commission on Marijuana presented its report to CARICOM, putting forward the view that in a regulated framework marijuana should be treated similarly to tobacco and alcohol.
In his statement yesterday, the prime minister said the government will use the findings from the BNCM to help reform laws on marijuana.
“Part of this reform should be expunging the records of Bahamians convicted of possession of small amounts of marijuana,” the statement read.
“Being from the Over-the-Hill community, I have seen firsthand how our current laws especially harm young people from modest backgrounds
Minnis’ statement added: “…A Rehabilitation of Offenders Committee has been formed and is reviewing a number of matters for recommendation, including the possible expunging of some criminal records for possession of small amounts of marijuana.
“We will also take into consideration the recommendations of this committee.”