Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis.
By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
PRIME Minister Dr Hubert Minnis supports expunging criminal records of people convicted of possessing small amounts of marijuana, he said yesterday.
Former Commissioner of Police Paul Farquharson is the head of the government’s Rehabilitation of Offenders Committee. He told The Tribune earlier this month that he wants young and first-time offenders, especially those convicted of drug possession crimes, to get their criminal records expunged.
Under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act (Amendment) 2015, people who have committed murder, manslaughter, treason, armed robbery, rape or possessed dangerous drugs with the intent to supply cannot have their records expunged. But after five years most others are eligible if they are first-time offenders or were younger than 21 at the time of their first conviction. People have to apply to get their records expunged and Mr Farquharson hopes that after their application is submitted, it will take the committee no longer than three to six months to reply.
Last week, Dr Minnis became the first sitting prime minister to publicly support some form of marijuana decriminalization, saying that in addition to decriminalizing possession of small amounts of the substance, he wants it legalized for medicinal and/or scientific purposes.
He said in a statement yesterday: “Our laws regarding the possession of small amounts of marijuana have unfortunately led to the arrest, prosecution, conviction and punishment of many Bahamians.
“Some of these people have been burdened with criminal records, making travel and finding work more difficult. Reforming our marijuana laws and changing how we treat people with small possession convictions is a matter of social justice. I support expunging the records of Bahamians convicted of possession of small amounts of marijuana. They deserve to move on with their lives free and clear of a criminal conviction. I eagerly await the release of the report by the Bahamas National Commission on Marijuana.
“My government will use the report’s findings to help reform our marijuana laws. Part of this reform should be expunging the records of Bahamians convicted of possession of small amounts of marijuana. Being from the Over-the-Hill community, I have seen firsthand how our current laws especially harm young people from modest backgrounds. The commission’s findings will be widely circulated and we welcome the input of Bahamians as we make those long-needed changes to various laws. A Rehabilitation of Offenders Committee has been formed and is reviewing a number of matters for recommendation, including the possible expunging of some criminal records for possession of small amounts of marijuana. We will also take into consideration the recommendation of this committee.”