Attorney General Carl Bethel. (File photo)
By LEANDRA ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
A DRAFT bill on marijuana legislation is expected to be presented to Cabinet “in very short order,” Attorney General Carl Bethel said yesterday.
However, Mr Bethel told The Tribune he could not give a definite timeline on the matter as he is still waiting to receive the official draft from his office.
“I’ve asked for the draft persons to prepare a draft bill to circulate and have approved by Cabinet. I haven’t got it back yet. I will follow up with it today,” he said.
“I’ve sent, several weeks ago, instructions. We’ve been very busy working on a host of battles including that so in due course, in very short order, it will be brought forward for consideration by Cabinet.”
His comments come as calls for marijuana law reform intensify in the country, with some observers noting the economic benefits that legalising marijuana could bring to aid country’s economic recovery from the COVID-19 crisis.
Speaking on the matter last week, head of the Ethiopia Africa Black International Congress (EABIC) Bahamas branch Priest Rithmond McKinney told The Tribune that the drug, if legalised, could help improve the high unemployment rate in the country, which now stands between 30 percent to 40 percent.
“I feel as though the government must speed up the process. . .because its revenue could bring more development to our country and slow down the persons who have no employment,” Priest McKinney said at the time. “This could make the employment (rate) much better and it’s a big industry and it really could help someone economically. I feel as though the whole Caribbean is looking into this matter and seeing how best they could benefit and help rise the economy so we shouldn’t drag our feet and be behind. We should find the best ways and means to find a way how to use it for the benefit of the Bahamian people economically and medically.”
Asked yesterday when his office is expected complete its work on marijuana legislation, Mr Bethel said he did not want to “speculate.”
He continued: “That’s the most that I can say. I’ve instructed them and requested that a draft be prepared, and they will have to look at what has been done throughout the region to come up with the best solution for the Bahamas. They will draft that and get that to me and then I have to take that to Cabinet for colleagues to approve.”
Earlier this year, Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis tabled the Bahamas National Commission on Marijuana’s report in the House of Assembly, bringing the country one step closer to marijuana reform. The preliminary report recommends releasing from prison those convicted for having small amounts of the drug and decriminalising up to one ounce of cannabis for persons 21 and over.
However, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the work of the BNCM was placed on hold for more than three months.
In a recent interview with The Tribune, co-chairs Bishop Simeon Hall and Quinn McCartney said group members intend to reconvene their work very soon.
“As you are aware, we submitted our report in January because the prime minister wanted to give his Cabinet a chance to have a look at our preliminary report. But of course in March, COVID-19 happened and we are basically just getting out of that period,” Mr McCartney said during a recent interview with The Tribune.
“We hope to reactivate and to sort of tie up our work hopefully in the coming months, but again we will need to return to the Office of the Prime Minister that has responsibility for this project and get further directions in terms of which way the prime minister would wish for us to continue.”