PLP Leader Philip "Brave" Davis.
By KHRISNA RUSSELL
Tribune Chief Reporter
PROGRESSIVE Liberal Party Leader Philip Brave Davis said the Minnis administration should have already addressed the issue of legalising marijuana and expunging the records of people who were convicted for possessing small amounts.
He also said the marijuana industry could yield a significant contribution to the country’s gross domestic product, in turn delivering a boost to the economy.
However, he said the government will simply have to ensure the industry is properly regulated.
His comments came yesterday amid continued discussions in the nation over the need for other viable industries as tourism, the economic driver, has taken a blow due to COVID-19.
“We recognise that the marijuana industry could yield a significant contribution to our GDP and we will welcome that,” Mr Davis said in response to a question from The Tribune during a press conference at the party’s headquarters on Farrington Road.
“We just have to ensure that it’s properly regulated and legalisation of it in our administration would be properly regulated to ensure that there are no abuses or ill consequences with its implementation.”
Mr Davis said the matter should have already been addressed.
“The time has long passed for us to address this issue of legalisation of marijuana and expunging the record of persons who would have had a record for small amounts.
“That would be something that the Progressive Liberal Party embrace(s).
“That is something that we urge the government to do as quickly as possible that they ought to by now now lived up to their promise to that segment of our demographic who have been saddled with records for convictions for small amounts of marijuana that is inhibiting and prohibiting their ability to be full participants in our country, particularly in the workplace.”
The Bahamas Marijuana Commission said it was resuming its work in August with co-chair Quinn McCartney admitting it would be challenging to fully decriminalise the substance in two years even though “low-hanging fruits” like medical marijuana can be legalised in that time.
The commission held its first meeting since March almost two months ago.
“I didn’t think any of us anticipated the pandemic effects would’ve been so long-lasting,” Mr McCartney told The Tribune at the time.
“When the pandemic came, we thought it was prudent to pause to get over that first wave. We were sort of in abeyance waiting for the right opportunity to reconvene. We’ve done so now because of increased interest in our work and perhaps possible benefits of our recommendations.”
Before the COVID-19 crisis, Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis said he wanted to decriminalise medical and small amounts of recreational marijuana by the end of this term.
Asked about that timeline, Mr McCartney said: “We presented a report that can be implemented in phases and so I think there are some things that can be done. The medical marijuana, that’s a low hanging fruit that can certainly be dealt with. I think the biggest challenge will be putting in the regulatory framework and making sure agencies are in place to ensure things are done properly. People will have to be hired, some will have to be trained, an office will have to be located and then there’s the whole licensing process. These things will take time but certainly if the will is there, I think there is a sufficient template out there to guide us and certainly some of the more low-hanging fruits can be done. It can be done in phases but there might be too much to do at one time.”
Mr McCartney said at the top of the commission’s agenda is discussing how to get to the finish line and complete a promised survey on the attitudes of Bahamians toward marijuana.