Davis: PM doesn’t have to amend law to release marijuana convicts

Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Leader Philip Brave Davis said yesterday that Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis can release inmates — convicted of the possession of small amounts of marijuana — from prison through an “administrative executive action” instead of waiting for law reform.

“You don’t need to amend the law to do that,” Davis said.

“There is the Committee on the Prerogative of Mercy. From an administrative point of view, you can reduce those persons’ prison sentence and you can release persons early…

“He doesn’t need to change the law.

“Instead of talking about it, if he liked, he can do it by administrative executive action through the prerogative of mercy committee.”

Davis’ comments came a day after Minnis expressed support for the release of people in prison for the possession of small amounts of marijuana.

“Once our reformed laws are passed and through proper legal mechanisms and procedures, I also support the release from prison of all those who are solely in prison for small marijuana possession,” Minnis said on Tuesday.

He added, “It is the decent and moral thing to do. As a country, we should not consider Bahamian marijuana users as criminals.”

Yesterday, Davis questioned whether there are a lot of inmates at the Bahamas Department of Correctional Services.

“The commentary is for all persons who are in prison for small amounts of marijuana to be released,” he said.

“You ask yourself: Who would be in prison today having been in possession of a small amount? Most persons would’ve been fined and the fine would not be so exorbitant that the offender can’t pay it.”

Davis added, “I would’ve thought and my experience tells me that most persons who are incarcerated for drug-related offenses, a drug-related offense would be there —as it relates to marijuana — because they would’ve been deemed to be a distributor of the substance and not just…a simple possession.”

In 2018, Cabinet formed The Bahamas National Commission on Marijuana and tasked with examining the issue of marijuana in The Bahamas in order to make recommendations to the government.

It was given until April 2019 to submit its findings.

However, the commission was granted several extensions.

On Tuesday, the commission submitted its preliminary report to the prime minister.

A draft of that report was leaked to The Nassau Guardian in December 2019.

According to that document, the commission proposes the expungement of all police records reflecting possessions of small amounts of cannabis.

It also recommended the legalization of medicinal marijuana and the decriminalization of the possession of up to one ounce of the substance.

The report proposes that individuals over 21 should be allowed to use marijuana for recreational purposes. It also recommends that anyone over 18 be allowed to use the substance for medicinal purposes.

A final report is expected to be submitted by the end of the first quarter of 2020.

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Jasper Ward

Jasper Ward started at The Nassau Guardian in September 2018. Ward covers a wide range of national and social issues. Education: Goldsmiths, University of London, MA in Race, Media and Social Justice

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