Leader of the Opposition Philip 'Brave' Davis. Photo: Terrel W. Carey Sr/Tribune Staff
By SYANN THOMPSON
Tribune Staff Reporter
PROGRESSIVE Liberal Party Leader Philip “Brave” Davis downplayed the potential impact of Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis’ declaration that he supports prison release of those convicted for having small amounts of marijuana.
Calling it a publicity stunt, Mr Davis said a first-year lawyer would know that most people arrested for small amounts of marijuana are not sent to prison.
And while he expressed support early last year for the decriminalisation of recreational marijuana, yesterday said he is concerned about the drug’s impact on the poor.
His comments came a day after Dr Minnis received the Bahamas National Marijuana Commission’s report. At the time, Dr Minnis also hit out at the PLP, saying the previous Christie administration had done nothing when it had the chance to support marijuana reform.
Expressing his concern yesterday about legal marijuana’s potential impact on the vulnerable, Mr Davis said: “The complete liberalisation of marijuana use in the country would impact the poor, not positively and impact them negatively. That is the conversations we should be having. My concern is about our inner-city youth who would be more impacted by easy access to this product and what would be the result and consequences.”
Mr Davis also said that most people arrested for marijuana are not sent to prison but “most get conditional or absolute discharges or non-custodial sentences.”
He said the prime minister should focus on working with the United States to lift travel restrictions on those who have criminal convictions for small amounts of marijuana possession.
“Perhaps he should be engaging with the United States government to discuss ways and means of facilitating them being able to travel to the United States or facilitating them being able to get a visa to go to the US. That’s doing something to impact the lives of people,” he said.
He also raised questions about who will be able to obtain licences to cultivate marijuana in a legal environment. He said the PLP visited Jamaica to witness its marijuana industry, which it found is a business for the rich.
“We therefore know that the business of marijuana processing and distribution is capital intensive and is for rich businessmen and women. The prime minister should not seek to fool us that he is making way for small business people. The FNM is making way for their rich business friends to make a windfall when the law changes. In Jamaica for example, it takes about five million US dollars to establish a marijuana business. The PLP wants to know who is being linked up to get these marijuana processing licences, export permits and businesses.”
Mr Davis also said it is false to say the PLP did not contribute to marijuana reform.
“Bahamians would recall that our last term in office, it was the PLP who amended the law to provide for a significant reduction in a timeline before criminal records are permanently expunged and this included the possession of small quantities of marijuana. This legislative reform measure was passed unanimously in the House of Assembly; it means that the whole process of marijuana reform was started by the PLP,” said Mr Davis.
He also said it was the PLP which appointed Bishop Simeon Hall, now a member of the Minnis administration’s Bahamas National Marijuana Commission, to CARICOM’s marijuana commission.
The Bahamas National Marijuana Commission’s report is expected to be tabled in the House of Assembly next week.