By YOURI KEMP
Tribune Business Reporter
A prominent advocate for marijuana's legalisation yesterday urged that The Bahamas adopt the "co-operative business model" to facilitate a homegrown industry that has true local ownership.
Terry Miller, chairman of the non-profit Bahamas Cannabis Research Institute (BACARI), told a webinar that the organisation has already formed the Green Alternative Investment Network (GAIN) Cooperative Society to focus on researching and developing plant products - especially medicinal-related ones that are beneficial for human use.
"We invite the Government of The Bahamas to partner with us and support the GAIN cooperative," Mr Miller said. "While we are not at this time opposing the sale of licenses to wealthy supporters and others, we are saying: 'Empower us, we the people, empower us by not only taking political ownership but by giving to GAIN licenses in every category of the industry.”
He added: "Some of our members have had extensive training in various aspects of hemp/cannabis production - from hempcrete production to cannabis-induced native fruit wines; from the intricacies of maintaining a cannabis hydroponic farm for medicine production to the extraction labs.
“For those who cannot see the economic value of an emerging cannabis industry, let me say unequivocally this industry will train and employ thousands of young Bahamians in more than 50 specialities for high-paying jobs but, more importantly, if properly regulated, if truly legislated for the economic empowerment of the majority of Bahamians, it will create large-scale Bahamian ownership.
“Since we have had more time to contemplate this than the Government - when they were talking about whether or not, we were talking about how - the only equitable conclusion we could have arrived at, and we conclude that this is indeed a fair and just approach, we concluded that the business model that would empower Bahamians most equitably is a cooperative.”
Following consultations with cannabis stakeholders in The Bahamas, Mr Miller said: “After many intense reasoning sessions, we all agreed on the following points. Firstly, that the cannabis species of plants, and the products derived therefrom, were too diverse to be placed in a single package.
“Secondly, we all agreed that industrial hemp, which was legalised in the US on December 20, 2018, should have been legalised immediately as there was absolutely no rationale for the criminalisation of this plant.
"We now know that industrial hemp has more than 50,000 industrial applications - from roofing materials, panelling, and concrete (hempcrete) to all variety of paper products and car parts to airplane parts. This plant is the most versatile in the world."
Mr Miller continued: "Third, based on the scientific evidence, medical marijuana should be legalised immediately to bring medical relief to thousands of our people suffering from more than 50 non-communicable diseases including all forms of epilepsy, dementia, various types of cancers, nausea, arthritis, diabetes, chronic pain.
“Lastly, every person in our group of 16 agreed completely and unequivocally that once cannabis is re-regulated to accommodate legal trade and commerce, the industry should be designed for Bahamian ownership. So we were all pleased to hear the Prime Minister say that the marijuana industry will be Bahamian owned.”