Free National Movement (FNM) Torchbearers Youth Association President Carlyle Bethel is urging Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis to “expeditiously pursue the full legalization of cannabis” in The Bahamas.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Peter Turnquest and Minister of Agriculture and Marine Resources Michael Pintard were copied in the letter, which is dated August 7, 2020.
“…I believe this new industry will provide significant economic alleviation for the country by assisting the tourism industry in generating foreign currency reserves and jobs for The Bahamas,” wrote Bethel, who is the son of Attorney General Carl Bethel.
He added, “With unemployment rates predicted to exceed 40 percent, it would be prudent to make some of the thousands of acres of unused Crown land available to Bahamians (with preference to our farmers) to cultivate cannabis and manufacture cannabis-based products.
“We can provide training courses through the Ministry of Agriculture and BAMSI to teach interested Bahamians how to farm and produce cannabis-based products.
“This industry would undoubtedly alleviate the unemployment and foreign currency reserve challenges that we face today while providing a great economic stimulus of our Family Island farmers.”
Bethel said the government should consider establishing an umbrella organization — similar to the Securities Commission of The Bahamas — to provide the regulatory framework, technical support and development expertise to this new industry.
He said that organization would assist with delivering “a coordinate national effort” in forming international partnerships and exporting agreements with other countries.
“The FNM has a unique opportunity to diversify our economy and build a new industry for and by Bahamians,” Bethel wrote.
“We are desperately in need of new economic pillars and I believe a thriving cannabis industry is one of the most appropriate responses given the circumstances.
“Thousands of our people are unemployed. Bahamians are struggling and go hungry every day. We have the opportunity to revive our economy but we must move swiftly and decisively.
“Now is the time to act.”
The decriminalization of marijuana has been a national topic of debate for some time.
On January 21, the Bahamas National Commission on Marijuana’s (BNCM) highly anticipated preliminary report on marijuana was submitted to the prime minister.
At the time, BNCM Co-Chair Quinn McCartney said that the full report was expected to be submitted by the end of the first quarter of 2020 once a national survey on the matter had been undertaken.
However, the COVID-19 pandemic brought the commission’s work to a halt.
The prime minister has in the past publicly expressed his support for the expungement of criminal records for simple possession of cannabis.