Exumas and Ragged Island MP Chester Cooper yesterday reiterated his support for the decriminalization of marijuana in The Bahamas and called on the government to expunge the records of Bahamians who were caught with small quantities of the drug.
“Why do we still have laws arresting and charging and convicting persons with possession of small quantities of marijuana, which ultimately results in the criminalizing mainly of our young men?” Cooper asked in the House of Assembly.
“This is a failed policy, Mr. Speaker, and no doubt we will come to this and no doubt we will define what small qualities should be.
“No doubt, Mr. Speaker, we will set the guidelines on these issues to ensure social responsibility.
“Not only should we stop this immediately across The Bahamas, but we need to reexamine in this place, as soon as possible and practical, the quantities that meet the threshold of possession with intent to supply.
“And Mr. Speaker, we as a matter of national emergency should examine the laws and the guidelines to expunge the records of all those convicted of the possession of small quantities to be determined and defined.”
Cooper was responding to comments made by Minister of Health Dr. Duane Sands who said that the sale of products with THC and CBD remain illegal.
But Cooper said, “As responsible leaders we must take care not to make criminals out of our young men and women.
“We are giving these people criminal records and forcing them into the underworld as they can’t get jobs and they can’t obtain a U.S. visa to travel to the U.S.
“I am a proponent, Mr. Speaker, of personal responsibility as well, but I say what do we expect when we impose the unintended consequence of making criminals out of our young men?
“…I support the legalization of medical cannabis, as I said before, and I repeat, I support the decriminalization of small amounts of recreational marijuana.
“The world has moved on this issue Mr. Speaker, and it may be a risky position but it’s my position.
“And no to the minister of health, no I’ve never smoked and neither have I inhaled Mr. Speaker.
“And by the way, I also support amending the laws permitting the over-the-counter sale of CBD products.”
Sands told parliamentarians that the Bahamas National Commission on Marijuana has been given an additional three months to examine the issue of marijuana in The Bahamas and make recommendations to the government.
The Regional Commission on Marijuana, which presented its report to CARICOM on the social, economic, health and legal issues surrounding marijuana in the region last July, put forward the view that in a regulated framework, marijuana should be treated similarly to tobacco and alcohol.
Seventy-one percent of Bahamians who participated in a Public Domain survey between June 1 and June 14, 2018 believed marijuana should be legalized for medicinal purposes.