By AVA TURNQUEST
Tribune Chief Reporter
“EVERYBODY wants it,” is how Health Minister Dr Duane Sands described the boom in cannabis-derived products hitting shelves locally.
Dr Sands told The Tribune the uptick in local advertisements for products containing cannabidiol or CBD represented an inevitable trickle down of global trends, reiterating the country was still in uncharted waters.
He confirmed there were no licences issued by the Ministry of Health, as required by the Dangerous Drugs Act, to import cannabis-derived products, but stressed it was not his ministry’s job to enforce or intercept goods.
“Everybody wants it,” Dr Sands told The Tribune on Friday, “everybody doing it, everybody talking about it. We got CBD shampoo, CBD dog food. The real question is whether people have CBD that you can take in your body, swallow.”
“If these things are ingestible, as opposed to topical, then (Ministry of Health) would get involved,” Dr Sands said, “but if it’s a lotion then it may have come in under the radar. They put CBD in everything now, Jamaican healing oil—the issue is whether you can drink it or eat it, and that’s where certainly persons travelling with a prescription for CBD have been hauled before the courts.
“But if you have a product containing CBD not intended for ingestion,” Dr Sands continued, “then typically that wouldn’t set off any alarms at (Department of) Customs but you would have to ask Customs on what basis because we certainly have not issued new licences or permissions.”
Customs Comptroller Dr Geannine Moss has not responded to calls or messages from The Tribune concerning the importation of cannabis products - first placed in January.
Notwithstanding the boom, the Bahamas National Commission on Marijuana (BNCM) is not likely to meet its April deadline to submit a first draft to government codifying Bahamian attitudes on the controversial plant, Co-chair Bishop Simeon Hall said yesterday.
Bishop Hall said the commission has noticed an uptick in advertisements for products containing CBD locally, but declined to comment further.
“I don’t want to prejudice the report,” Bishop Hall said, “but we are studying it, we are conscious of that (increased sale of cannabis-derived products). The mandate of the commission is to codify and analyse how the Bahamian people truly feel about the herb. It’s not promoting the usage of any kind, we are just trying to analyse what people are doing with this.
“I can’t speak authoritatively,” he added, “I believe we will have some part of the work ready for April, but I do not think it will be completed in April.”
There are multiple strains of the Cannabis Sativa plant; however, the two most popular are commonly known as Industrial Hemp and marijuana.
Industrial Hemp is high in cannabinoid CBD and low in THC - the cannabinoid that creates a mind-altering “high”; and CBD oil is commonly sourced from this strain.
However, there is a distinction between CBD oil - which contains naturally occurring terpenes, flavonoids, Cannabinoids, and other beneficial phytonutrients from the whole plant; and hemp oil, which is normally pressed from the seeds and, while it contains a lot of antioxidants and omega 3 and 6 fatty acids, does not contain the same number of cannabinoids.
On Friday, Dr Sands said: “There are many things that catch people’s attention, and people buy it because it is trendy. Whether you’re talking about saw palmetto, melatonin, ginkgo biloba, or whatever. (Consumers) buy the stuff expecting benefits but a lot of times it is a marketing ploy.
“We have agreed to be guided by, among other things, the Marijuana Commission’s work,” Dr Sands continued, “it would be pointless of us to embark on a parallel task independent of their work. This is being brought to my attention, as you drive down the street you see a sign does that now mean that there’s an infraction of any law, and then who would be responsible for investigating that?
“Now if you out there selling morphine, then certainly we would certainly act.”
Dr Sands continued: “It really depends on what the product is. If I’m selling hairspray and one of the ingredients of the hair spray is CBD, and this thing is clearly non-ingestible what act does that fall under?”
Cannabis, defined as “Indian hemp” is classified in part II of the Dangerous Drugs Act alongside coca leaves, crude cocaine, and raw opium.
The Act defines “Indian hemp” as “all parts of any plant of the genus cannabis whether growing or not from which the resin has not been extracted; the resin extracted from a part of such plant; and every compound, manufacture, salt derivative, mixture or preparation of such plant or resin.”
It further allows a “qualified person with special authority of the minister” to cultivate, trade in, import or bring into the Bahamas marijuana for medical or scientific purpose.
The Tribune questioned on Friday whether the lack of enforcement concerning drug stores and online vendors was hypocritical given the harsh sentences imposed on offenders caught with small quantities of marijuana.
Dr Sands said: “We are in uncharted waters and I think we have agreed to make a determination, we are in the process of doing that.
“In the meantime, there is going to be questions asked particularly as you see changes in the rest of the world. Because everybody has jumped on this bandwagon. You may ask why do you need CBD for your fingernails, well because people will buy it.
“Then the question is, is it creating a problem, and if so what is the problem that it is creating?”