'It's Time To Relax The Rules On Cannabis'

Deputy Progressive Liberal Party leader Chester Cooper.

Deputy Progressive Liberal Party leader Chester Cooper.


Tribune Chief Reporter


EXUMA and Ragged Island MP Chester Cooper yesterday called on the government to immediately expunge the records of people convicted of possession of small amounts of marijuana.

Mr Cooper said officials needed to re-examine the law concerning the quantity of drugs that met the “intent to supply” threshold, characterising the status quo as a “failed” policy.

He reiterated his full support of the legalisation of medical marijuana, and expanded his position to include the decriminalisation of small amounts of recreational marijuana during his contribution in the House of Assembly.

“For the life of me,” Mr Cooper said, “I don’t understand why we are still arresting and charging and criminalising young men with possession of small amounts of marijuana.

“We’re giving these people criminal records and forcing them into the underworld as they can’t get jobs, can’t travel.”

He continued: “What do we expect them to do but turn to crime when they can’t participate in the legitimate workforce? We have to address this as a Parliament and as a nation.

“I support the legalisation of medical cannabis and decriminalising of small amounts of recreational marijuana.

“That may not be a popular view in this place,” he added, “but that is my position. And no I have never smoked and neither have I inhaled.”

Mr Cooper’s remarks came after Health Minister Dr Duane Sands told Parliament there have been a number of confiscations at the nation’s border after his ministry met with Department of Customs officials and police over the influx of CBD and THC products hitting shelves locally.

Dr Sands said confiscated samples tested by a police forensics team have revealed a lack of consistency in the content of products advertised to contain CBD, with some containing no CBD and others containing significant amounts of THC.

For his part, the health minister urged Bahamians to be patient while the Bahamas Marijuana Commission completes its report as there is no guarantee of the safety and efficacy of products imported illegally.

“We acknowledge the changing environment around us,” Dr Sands said, “however the law is neither gray uncertain nor nebulous. It is impossible to predict the outcome of our sovereign deliberations. And while we encourage vigorous debate and participation in the process to affect desired change or to maintain the status quo, we enjoy a healthy democracy where contentious and controversial issues can be discussed and ventilated. In the meantime the public is urged to remain patient because it is through this process that nation building continues.”

Dr Sands pointed to the nearly 50-year track to decriminalisation and legalisation policies in some US states that began with California’s first failed attempt in 1972.

In the US, marijuana is still illegal at the federal level; however, medical marijuana is legal in 33 states, with recreational use legal in 10 states.

“The Bahamas and Bahamians have also developed a keen interest in cannabis,” Dr Sands continued. “Simultaneously there has been an increased adoption of the use of products of the plants for various indications, including construction.

“While we acknowledge interests, our local deliberations have not yet been completed. We do not know what the commission will decide but the Bahamas is a country of laws and the Dangerous Drugs Act remains in effect.

“As such marijuana, cannabis, THC, and yes CBD remain illegal without a licence,” Dr Sands added.

Speaking to the over-the-counter sale of CBD products, Mr Cooper accused Dr Sands of “trying to block the hustle” of a substance in wide distribution around the world.

“There aren’t any psychotropic effects, as evidenced by the great body of work that is out there,” Mr Cooper said.

“The world has moved on.

“It’s regrettably too late for us to lead on this, but it’s not too late to be progressive.

“I digress,” Mr Cooper added, “but we must ensure that our punitive stance on minor offences do not impose the unintended social consequences for ordinarily law-abiding citizens.”


John 1 year, 5 months ago

In the US, marijuana is still illegal at the federal level; however, medical marijuana is legal in 33 states, with recreational use legal in 10 states.

There are several reasons the federal government (1) wants to keep marijuana as a schedule 1 drug and (2) keep it illegal despite its proven medical benefits. Many in the federal government have interests or friends and family who have interest in the pharmaceutical companies who stand to lose Billions if marijuana based products were to replace a number of the high cost drugs they produce. And for recreational marijuana the cigarette and alcohol companies already have empirical data that recreational marijuana can cut into their sales by as much as 50% over five years. Those who are not willing to retool and sell legalized weed will see substantial loss in profits and some will go out of business. And the DEA and CIA still want to use marijuana to launch attacks on small nations and minorities in the US. The only way they can justify these efforts is to keep marijuana listed as the most dangerous drugs on the planet. And when America lights up a joint, The Bahamians get high.


DDK 1 year, 5 months ago

Good points but Big Pharma will just buy the marijuana companies, create a monopoloy on the product and hike the prices.


mandela 1 year, 5 months ago

Mr Cooper is so right for a joint the Bahamas criminalizes its citizens mainly young men gives them a life long record, makes sure they can't travel ever, makes sure they can never get a job if they need a police record to apply, then send them back on the streets to survive with limited to no way out. Dr. Sands it doesn't matter what the U.S does we need to lookout and think of what's happening in the Bahamas and do the right thing, decriminalize small amounts and stop creating criminals out of your brothers and sisters


John 1 year, 5 months ago

And yet we act so shocked by the numbers of persons suffering from kidney diseases and complete kidney failure in this country. Have you forgotten where the US was spraying all the marijuana fields in Jamaica and Mexico with prarquat and other chemicals that were harmful to humans and cause illness lloke kidney failure? They probably killed more people than marijuana ever will some who never even smoked weed.


TheMadHatter 1 year, 5 months ago

Cooper and his PLP brethren must not have realized we were putting our young men in prison while they were just in power 2 years ago? The FNM wont legalize it or else they already would have and if PLP gets back in they wont either. The leader of PLP wont make a promise to dissolve the House and call for a new election if they have not legalized it within 6 months of winning election. If they "bad" let them make that promise in plain English.


John 1 year, 5 months ago

So when did ‘relaxing the rules on Cannabis’ come to mean legalizing it? This country is still a good ways from wanting to have marijuana legalized for Recreational purposes. And as for those who see persons suffer and deteriorate with cancer or other painful ailments where cannibis or its by products could have eased the suffering, now you know what the snake on the medical symbol represents. Marijuana based medical products are not snake oil.


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