By YOURI KEMP
Tribune Business Reporter
A marijuana legalisation advocate has asked why the government “keeps playing games with the Bahamian people” on the legalization of marijuana and industrial hemp.
Terry Miller, chairman of the non-profit Bahamas Cannabis Research Institute (BACARI), told Tribune Business that the constant “kicking the can down the road” on marijuana legislation is wearing thin with him particularly as the Progressive Liberal Party administration has not invited his group to discuss the way forward for industrial marijuana nor had the previous Free National Movement administration after four years of talking about the issue.
Mr Miller said: “Why are they lying to their people about the potential health benefits of marijuana and why are they denying their people the potential industrial development? That is the bigger question!
“I hope that they are really going to have a group of people who understand this industry, the nuances and all of the obvious points of this industry because they haven’t called on me yet and I have been advocating and doing a lot of research in the past four and a half years.”
Mr Miller’s remarks came after Prime Minister Philip Davis said he will bring the government’s marijuana findings to the public in December, but did not commit to having the legislation ready.
Ryan Pinder, Attorney General, followed up with another update on the progress the government is making on marijuana and cannabis legislation yesterday at the Office of the Prime Minister’s weekly press conference, where he said: “The legislation that you always ask me about, the regularization of marijuana and cannabis. That is in process on a medical marijuana approach.
“That bill, the first draft of that has been provided to me, I provided the initial comments back and that bill has been sent to our international consultants for their review. They’ve assured me that I will get their comments back by the beginning of next week, which will be collated and then we’ll do another turn of that bill, and get it ready for public consultation.
“We know that that’s a bill that will go to public consultation, and we will have to certainly present what our views are to the public to get their feedback. We’ve already been speaking to Bahamian experts in the area to help coordinate our public consultation on that and our education on that and that’s very important to be able to provide that education basis.”
The government will also look into “separate legislation for industrial hemp,” and the ministry of agriculture will be working towards development farmers to take advantage of the eventuality of the legalization of industrial hemp and get them involved in the agribusiness aspect of industrial hemp.
Mr Miller, a staunch proponent for industrial hemp, prefers the legalization of the hemp industry over the marijuana industry for the fact that more can be gained from industrial hemp in terms of value added products and opportunities for manufacturing and production opportunities for Bahamians.
Mr Miller also said with regard to marijuana legislation: “The information is readily available for any idiot who wants to go on the internet and do research. I want people to understand this, marijuana is a drug is a mind and mood altering substance and as such, it can be dangerous. If you don’t understand what you’re dealing with, then you’re prone to fall into traps into the pitfalls.
But if you understand the dangers, if you’re going into a minefield, and you know where the mines are, you could get across it. But if you’re crossing a minefield, and you don’t know where they are then you’re liable to kill yourself and that is why it’s so important that this legislation be done properly and it should be done expeditiously.