Progressive Liberal Party Deputy Leader Chester Cooper accused the government of politicizing the issue of marijuana decriminalization yesterday as he again called for the prime minister to “have the courage” to take action.
On Tuesday, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis said he supports the release of people in prison for the possession of small amounts of marijuana.
The Bahamas National Commission on Marijuana submitted its preliminary report to Minnis on Tuesday.
The commission said a national survey examining the issue of marijuana will be launched next week, and that their final report on marijuana will be submitted by the end of the first quarter of 2020.
However, Cooper urged government not to wait for the report to take action.
“There is no need to wait on the final report of the marijuana commission to change laws regarding simple possession of marijuana,” Cooper said in a social media post.
“There is little sense in waiting for the results of a national survey to expunge the criminal records of the people he says he cares so much about.”
Cooper added, “The prime minister and the leadership of the Progressive Liberal Party are not at odds on this issue.
“This can be brought to Parliament and passed next week. In the absence of a national economic growth strategy or a concrete plan for the recovery of Grand Bahama and Abaco, it is the least that he can do.
“Less dithering and grandstanding and more doing on this important issue would be welcome from the prime minister.”
According to crime statistics released by the commissioner of police, over 900 people were arrested for possession of marijuana in The Bahamas last year, making up over half of the total drug-related arrests.
The Rehabilitation of Offenders Committee, whose function is to help with the expungement of criminal records of first-time and young offenders, said in November that the majority of applications received have been for “minor matters connected with marijuana”.
In recent months, Minnis has been vocal in his support for the decriminalization of small amounts of marijuana and the legalization of medical marijuana.
Cooper yesterday dismissed this as “lip service”.
“The prime minister should stop paying lip service to the reform of the marijuana laws and politicizing the issue and act,” Cooper said yesterday.
“He has already publicly stated his position despite Cabinet apparently having yet come to a conclusion on the way forward.
“If he is so bold as to speak national policy on behalf of the government without consulting his colleagues in Cabinet then he should have the courage to implement it.”