Set cannabis tax below 10 percent, says commission

Set cannabis tax below 10 percent, says commission
Terry Miller, head of the Bahamas Cannabis Research Institute.

Advocate says industry still viable but Bahamas ‘way behind’

NASSAU, BAHAMAS-  The Bahamas is ‘way behind’ and ‘very late’ out the gate towards the establishment of a legalized medical marijuana industry, according to one local advocate.

Terry Miller, head of the Bahamas Cannabis Research Institute (BACARI) told Eyewitness News Online investors were “chomping at the bit” two years ago.

Miller said while the industry could still generate millions and spur significant economic activity, many countries have effectively ‘jumped ahead’ and attracted serious investors.

His comments come after a preliminary report by the Bahamas National Commission on marijuana green-lighted recreational and medicinal marijuana, insisting that Bahamians should own 51 percent of the industry in a legalized framework.

That preliminary report, which was leaked to the media, features recommendations from various subcommittees on the medical, economic, religious and recreational use of cannabis in The Bahamas.

The BNC also recommended the government set cannabis tax not exceeding ten per cent.

“The goal is to tax the revenue without overtaxing,” the report stated. 

“Over taxation of the legal market would encourage and foster a robust and healthy Black market which will not be the ideal situation for the government or the Bahamian people.”

For his part, Miller said: “A year ago or two ago when we should have done it, it would have been close to billions. So much has changed since then. The world has changed and many counter shave jumped ahead of us and investors have gone to those countries.

A few years ago investors were coming at the bit to comet o the Bahamas a year or two ago. Those people have invested hither money elsewhere. I’m sure we can have vibrant industry but I think we are strain way behind, very late and that is a concern.”

Miller added: “The pace has been very slow. I’m a bit disappointed they haven’t released the report yet. I know they did a lot of work throughout the islands but there were certain groups they didn’t call in.”

The BNC’s report did not provide details on the potential economic impact of a legalized marijuana industry, but noted the direct effects from legalization and the creation of a cannabis industry for medical and/or recreational use.

These include: licensing fees; real estate; employment; Bahamian ownership and taxation.

The report also underscored two approaches to licensing, the open market approach; and the closed market approach.

“The open market approach consists of different license classes and tiers,” the report continued.

“For example, the licensing fees could be associated with square footage being used in – an operation; or by licensed operation transacts revenue annually. Both approaches are very lucrative and allow for broader involvement across the region.

“The closed market approach involves designating licenses to a very small number of businesses coupled with excessive licensing fees, thereby making it almost unattainable for the average citizen to acquire. Real estate is an essential component to having a sustainable xannabis industry within the country.”

It read: “Cultivation and processing centres demand huge amounts of land. The potential sale or lease of these properties can offer a very positive impact to neighboring communities.”

As to the industry’s potential impact, the report noted that globally wages in the industry are amongst the highest in the world with a laborer making wages starting at $15 an hour, and a master grower’s salary starting at around $100,000 annually.

The report stated: “Whilst many Bahamians will need to be adequately trained to be growers, this profession is a very doable and practical livelihood for many.The equity component proposed will ensure the country sees the full benefit of this economic possibility.

“Globally there has been a complete lockout of people of color and lower socioeconomic status.  Interestingly, the population that is locked out is also the population that took the blunt of the blow on the war on drugs. Currently, there is a movement to attempt to right the past wrongs of the criminal justice system and the economic racism that has taken place.”

It added: “The solution – to let those groups participate on a level playing field.”

The report further noted that with a Bahamian based equity industry, the country can control the new industry for the benefit of Bahamians.

It has been recommended that private companies must be 51 percent Bahamian owned and if partnering with a foreign company, that company, that company can only hold a maximum of 49 percent equity.

It was also recommended that recreational cannabis only be permitted for adults over 21 years, and medicinal cannabis should be permitted for adults over 18 years of age. 

It was further recommended Wellness Centres (cannabis dispensaries) are owned by entrepreneurs; and be permitted to issue and fill medicinal cannabis prescriptions.

The report called for a tracking system be implemented so that plants can be tracked as a sprout, through to finished packaging, onto the laboratory to be quality tested and then for distribution and sale.   

It was also recommended that a National Cannabis Regulatory Board be established.

That board would be independent and non-partisan, transparent; provide oversight and a suitable licensing scheme; and funded by the taxation of the industries and from law enforcement.