The Bahamas could decriminalize personal possession of small amounts of cannabis and legalize its use for medical, religious, and research purposes. Proposed regulations will also stipulate that license holders must be Bahamian and over 21, along with a new governmental authority to oversee the industry. The proposals align with a 2018 agreement among Caribbean leaders to review cannabis laws.
The government of The Bahamas has announced a legislative package that will legalize cannabis for medical, religious, and research purposes. Additionally, the personal possession of small amounts of cannabis will be decriminalized, and prior convictions for simple possession will be expunged.
Announcement of New Legislative Proposals for The Bahamas
Attorney General for The Bahamas, Ryan Pinder, and the Minister of Health and Wellness Michael Darville announced the proposed reforms during the weekly press conference of the Prime Minister’s cabinet last Thursday.
Mr. Pinder stated that he aims for the bills to be presented to The Bahamas Parliament by October.
“The goal would be to debate it by the end of the calendar year because there’s a lot of work to be done to set up the authority,” he said. “There’s training, certifications, the digital platform for tracking and prescriptions, and all of this needs to be done before licenses are issued.”
Medical Uses and Specific Conditions
If passed, doctors in The Bahamas will be able to recommend cannabis for specific conditions, including cancer, multiple sclerosis, and epilepsy.
“Many Bahamians suffer from debilitating illnesses such as terminal cancers, various forms of depression unresponsive to clinical therapy, and post-traumatic stress disorder,” said Mr. Darville.
Religious and Special Licenses
The changes would also permit the religious use of cannabis in The Bahamas by Rastafarians, who would need to obtain special licenses for this purpose.
Possession Limits and Penalties in The Bahamas
Although these reforms do not legalize cannabis in The Bahamas in general, possession of up to 30 grams of cannabis would be decriminalized, subject to a fine of 250 dollars instead of a criminal record. Prior convictions for simple possession would also be expunged.
Regulations for Cannabis Production in The Bahamas
As for production, future license holders must be Bahamian and at least 21 years old. Ownership groups must also include a certain percentage of Bahamians, depending on the type of license. For example, growers must be 100% Bahamian-owned. Licenses for analysis, manufacturing, and research in The Bahamas should be held 30% by Bahamians.
“We have a number of licenses that will be set up and opportunities for participation for Bahamians, and we look forward to their involvement,” said Mr. Pinder. “We believe this will have a positive economic impact.”
Oversight and Governance
The system would be overseen by a new governmental authority on cannabis in The Bahamas, composed of nine members representing “a faith-based organization, civil society, and a person from sectors of banking, law, agriculture, scientific research, pharmacy, and medicine.”
Grounding in Research and International Best Practices
A Bahamas government website dedicated to the proposals indicates that the “overall framework is not arbitrary; it is anchored in research and the findings of the 2018 report from the Caribbean Community Secretariat on cannabis.” Additionally, the authors of the bills have also studied cannabis regulation in Jamaica, Barbados, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Canada.
“This ensures that our legislation is in line with international best practices and adapted to our unique cultural and legal context,” the site notes.
Regional Context Beyond The Bahamas
In 2018, leaders from 19 Caribbean countries, including The Bahamas, Barbados, Haiti, and Jamaica, agreed to “review the current status of cannabis with a view to reclassification,” citing human rights and religious rights issues stemming from criminalization, as well as “the economic benefits to be derived” from a regulated industry.
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