By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
THE Bahamas National Commission on Marijuana has endorsed the economic potential of a cannabis industry in The Bahamas as robust.
The commission’s report notes that wages in the sector are among the highest in the world, with starting wages for workers being $15 an hour and “a master grower’s” salary starting from around $100,000 annually.
“Whilst many Bahamians will need to be adequately trained to be growers, this profession is very doable and practical livelihood for many,” the draft preliminary report, which was leaked to the media, says.
“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 colour and lower socio-economic status. Interestingly, the population that is locked out is also the population that took the blunt of the blow on the war on drugs.”
The report says licensing fees, real estate, employment, an equity programme and taxation are areas that would produce direct economic effects from legalisation and creation of a cannabis industry for medicinal and/or recreational use. It is recommended that the Bahamas have ownership of the industry, with 51 percent ownership by Bahamians in private companies and no more than 49 percent ownership staged from foreign companies. The commission recommends that a cannabis tax not exceed ten percent, arguing that over-taxation would foster a black market.
The commission has recommended that recreational cannabis be permitted for adults over 21 years and medicinal cannabis for adults over 18. It recommends that a committee of people with knowledge of medicine determine who can cultivate cannabis for medicinal use. Those permitted would be allowed to cultivate up to five mature plants.
The report also notes that more than 1,000 people discharged from the Sandilands Rehabilitation Centre from 2014 to 2018 had a primary diagnosis of marijuana use.
During that period the numbers gradually increased, from 139 in 2014; 167 in 2015; 204 in 2016; 240 in 2017 and 278 in 2018.
The 278 people primarily diagnosed with marijuana use in 2018 represented 26.2 percent of all discharged patients from the centre.
The statistics also show 465 people, or 43.8 percent of all patients discharged from the centre during that period, had at least a secondary diagnosis of marijuana usage.
On the other hand, the number of discharged inpatients with either a primary or secondary diagnosis of marijuana usage declined from 143 in 2014 to 91 in 2018.
According to the report, 6,809 people were arrested for possession of cannabis/marijuana products from 2014 to 2018.
This includes 4,280 people for possession, 2,452 for possession with intent to supply, 57 for cultivation, two for having marijuana capsules, 11 for having baked goods, five for importation and two for conspiracy to import.
Quinn McCartney, BNCM co-chairman, said yesterday the commission has not finalised its preliminary report. When contacted, Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis also stressed that the draft report was not final and had not yet been presented to Parliament. He told this newspaper that the final report would be tabled in Parliament, adding his administration was investigating to see who leaked the document prematurely.
Last month, Dr Minnis said he favours decriminalising possession of small amounts of marijuana and making the substance legal for medicinal and/or scientific purposes. Becoming the first sitting prime minister to publicly support some form of marijuana decriminalisation, he said he hopes the decriminalisation process will happen before the end of this term.