BCC won’t reveal position on marijuana yet

Bahamas Christian Council (BCC) President Bishop Delton Fernander said yesterday that the council will await a report by the Bahamas National Commission on Marijuana before giving its position on marijuana.

That report is expected to be handed over to Cabinet sometime in January.

“We as a council have not come to a conclusion for a position on marijuana,” Fernander said.

“We don’t know the position the committee will come back with, and we’re waiting to see that report so that we can make a decision based on that.

“[T]here are a number of strains seemingly going forth – medical marijuana not being the only strain that is going forth.

“We also know that the prime minister has made a decision, but we’re going to wait until we see the end result and then we’re going to vote and give our written response to the report.”

His comments came after Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis expressed support for the decriminalization of marijuana.

“I think medical marijuana for medical purposes should definitely be allowed so that we can improve individuals’ health and even give them a better outlook in life, and give them a better opportunity to improve their health and continue to make contributions to society,” Minnis said yesterday.

The prime minister also said that there are many young people who “may have been caught with just a joint or whatever and they subsequently develop criminal records”.

“It interferes with their education,” he said.

“It interferes with their job. It interferes with their advancement in life and that grouping, in particular, is disadvantaged.”

Fernander said that the country is attempting to solve problems it has already solved, as there are already laws in place to expunge the criminal records of young offenders caught with a small amount of drugs.

“Some of the points about decriminalizing or expunging certain records for young persons that have been locked up for a small amount (of marijuana), it is my understanding that there is a bill already that deals with that, where the committee has not been empaneled,” Fernander said.

“[I] know that the legislation was passed. Let’s enact what we got on the book, and let’s make it better for some of the young men who have been locked up for small amounts.”

Fernander was referring to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Committee, which was approved by Cabinet this year and was set to commence work in September.

The Rehabilitation of Offenders (Amendment) Act, 2015 was gazetted on November 24, 2015.

It mandated the establishment of a committee that would review expungement applications of first time and young offenders.

According to the legislation, after five years, first time offenders and young offenders, who are defined as individuals under 21 at the date of conviction, are able to apply for the removal of their criminal records.

The committee will hear applications to all offenses excluding manslaughter, murder, treason, armed robbery, rape and kidnapping.

It can also expunge records for offenders convicted of possession of dangerous drugs with intent to supply if the offender was found with a quantity of less than 10 pounds of Indian hemp, two pounds of cocaine or 20 grams of opium morphine and its salts including heroin.

On September 26, former Commissioner of Police Paul Farquharson was identified as the committee’s chair.

Other committee members include Khalil Parker, Darron Rolle, Pastor Shameka Morley, Fr. Kendrick Forbes and a representative from the Department of Social Services.

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