Attorney General Carl Bethel. (File photo)
By TANYA SMITHCARTWRIGHT
MARIJUANA legislation, once approved by Cabinet, will be introduced to Parliament before the end of the budget year, Attorney General Carl Bethel said yesterday.
He spoke to reporters minutes after Shane Miller received his instruments of appointment as deputy freedom of information commissioner from Governor General Sir C A Smith.
In February, Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis said the government was working on legislation to legalise medical marijuana.
Many Bahamians interested in being a part of the industry have been disappointed by the slow pace of marijuana reform along with the Rastafarian community who would like certain religious freedoms enshrined in the new legislation, relating to their marijuana sacrament.
“We are trying to do so (bring the bill to Parliament) before the end of the budget year,” Senator Bethel said. “Dame Anita Allen is working on the Law Reform Commission now to put all of the different suggestions that we think are going to be workable. Not everything suggested is workable at the present time into the redraft of the bill. That will then be submitted to me, I am told, by the end of tomorrow (Friday) afternoon.
“And, then on Saturday or Sunday I am going to organise a meeting of the Ministerial Committee … sub-committee of Cabinet that is being charged with this consultation process and we will go through the bill line by line. We are trying to see whether or not we are in a position to bring it forward, either this week or the next for Cabinet to approve at the end of this process.
“We are still in the consultative phase of the Medicinal Cannabis Bill and associated bills,” he said. “We’ve had meetings. We came up with a draft, but it is necessary to consult with affected interests. So we consulted with the Bahamas Christian Council, initially. We are waiting on comments from them, although there were a number of suggestions made during the course of the meeting with the Council.”
Mr Bethel said the government is still meeting with stakeholders as there are more than just “medicinal” forms of marijuana being discussed.
“The second thing is that we have had consultative meetings now with potential entrepreneurs, potential investors—Bahamians who are living abroad who already have businesses in terms of the dispensation or sale of cannabis edibles or other things like that,” he explained. “So we had both Bahamians who are resident here and Bahamian residents abroad and the Ministry of Agriculture.
“We discussed the development of a hemp industry. The definition that we are going with is that anything that has THC within the cannabis plant of more than 0.3 percent is considered psycho-active and therefore in the Dangerous Drugs Act, anything with less than 0.3 percent THC is not psycho-active, does not meet the standard of being a dangerous drug and will be available in due course to the development of various cannabis, hemp industries.”
Mr Bethel said in the government’s consultations, it was discovered that a variety of things can be made out of hemp that are not intended for any kind of human consumption. He gave the examples of floor mats, decorative items and tiles.
“There are all sorts of things, apparently, that can be made out of the hemp plant itself. It is a very durable plant apparently,” he continued. “We’ve now had further consultations last week with the pharmacists and the medical council and also doctors. We received valuable input from them.”
Mr Bethel said he does not want to pre-empt any Cabinet decision on the matter, “so we will just have to see when we see.”