By MORGAN ADDERLEY
Tribune Staff Reporter
OPPOSITION leader Philip Davis has confirmed his support for the decriminalisation of recreational marijuana as well as the immediate expunction of the records of those who have been convicted of possessing small amounts of the drug.
In an interview with The Tribune yesterday, the Progressive Liberal Party leader noted the protocols of decriminalisation have to be “worked out,” adding there should be laws in place to regulate marijuana use just as there is legislation regarding the use of alcohol.
Mr Davis’ comments came a week after PLP deputy leader Chester Cooper delivered a passionate speech in the House of Assembly where he expressed his own support of decriminalising small amounts of recreational marijuana and also called on the government to expunge the records of people convicted of possession of small amounts of the drug.
When asked if he agrees there should be a move to decriminalise recreational use of marijuana, Mr Davis said: “Yes. Once we understand all of the social implications and impact… And I think there are other things and protocols that go along with decriminalisation, which ought to be worked out and sorted [so] it doesn’t have any adverse effects on people, on society, et cetera.
“As you recall, I called for decriminalisation for medicinal use some time ago,” Mr Davis continued, adding he thinks recreational decriminalisation “should be phased in”.
“And of course, the saddling of our young people with criminal records has really proved a social challenge for our country, in that you have a huge group of young persons who cannot get into the mainstream [economy] of our society because of having been convicted of these small amounts of marijuana and usually in the context of their recreational use of it.”
When asked if their records should be expunged, Mr Davis answered in the affirmative.
He added the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act currently provides for expunction “after a period of time.” However Mr Davis said after decriminalisation comes about, he supports expunction with “no waiting period”.
“Yes,” he replied. “Yes…and/or, in fact the law permits expunction under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act but it’s after a period of time. I think the call is, once you move to decriminalise, at the same time we should move to expunction as opposed to what I call the ‘waiting period’, that’s provided for in the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act.
“That’s a period I think of six or seven years…the number isn’t in my head right now. But it’s a period of time after conviction that one’s record is expunged. But that period of time, I think what he’s saying is once decriminalisation comes along, there should be no waiting period, they should be expunged at the same time. “
Mr Davis added he supports this position.
When asked if he is calling for the complete decriminalisation of recreational marijuana or just small quantities, the PLP leader replied: “Those protocols have to be worked out. I mean like you say, small quantities versus on the whole, I mean what do you mean by whole?
“I think once I speak to, you speak to the decriminalisation of marijuana, that’s the whole,” he continued. “Now the difference is if you’re talking about persons who are going to continually flout the law — because even in decriminalisation of marijuana, there will be laws in place to regulate its use, just as we have laws that regulate the use of alcohol.”
Last July, Mr Davis issued a statement saying his party sympathises with those who have been affected by the country’s anti-drug laws. He also said the PLP is proposing the appointment of a review panel to make recommendations on the issue.
Last July a CARICOM committee released a report calling for the end of marijuana prohibition in the region.
Also last year, Public Domain released a poll which said 71 per cent of 998 Bahamian residents surveyed believed marijuana should be legalised for medicinal purposes, and all respondents ranked marijuana as the least harmful substance by comparison to tobacco, alcohol, and sugar, across the board.
The Bahamas National Commission on Marijuana (BNCM) was also formed to “codify” Bahamians’ view on “all things related to marijuana” and make recommendations to the government on all positions concerning the drug.
The group has yet to report on its findings.