Over 900 people were arrested for possession of marijuana in The Bahamas last year, making up over half of the total drug-related arrests.
Crime statistics released by Commissioner of Police Anthony Ferguson on Tuesday revealed that 917 people were arrested for possession of marijuana in 2019 compared to 835 in 2018, a 10 percent increase.
Another 622 were arrested in 2019 for possession of marijuana with intent to supply.
In 2018, 592 people were arrested for possession of marijuana with intent to supply. The figures show that there was a five percent increase in arrests in this category in 2019.
The statistics also show that in 2019, 11 people were arrested for possession of marijuana plants, four were arrested for possession of marijuana plants with intent to supply and six were arrested for cultivation of marijuana.
Seven people were arrested for possession of marijuana and marijuana cereals with intent to supply.
Three people were arrested for possession of hashish and marijuana with intent to supply.
Two were arrested for possession of marijuana cookies with intent to supply.
Two people were arrested for possession of marijuana gummy bears. Another two were arrested for possession of marijuana cupcakes.
One person was arrested for possession of marijuana cookies and marijuana brownies.
In total, 1,574 people were arrested for either cultivation of marijuana, possession of marijuana or possession with intent to supply marijuana.
Overall, there were 1,720 drug-related arrests for 2019 compared to 1,666 in 2018.
The statistics were revealed amid an ongoing public debate on the decriminalization or legalization of the substance.
A recently leaked preliminary report from the Bahamas National Commission on Marijuana recommended the legalization of medicinal marijuana and the decriminalization of the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana.
The draft report, which was obtained by The Nassau Guardian, also recommended that individuals over 21 should be allowed to use marijuana for recreational purposes and that anyone over 18 should be allowed to use the substance for medicinal purposes.
The document proposed that Bahamians have ownership of the cannabis industry, noting that foreigners should only be allowed to hold up to 49 percent equity in any company involved in the industry in The Bahamas.
Following the report leak, Ferguson said he supports the expungement of criminal records for individuals found with small amounts of marijuana.
However, he reminded the public that the report is only a recommendation and not the law.
Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis has also expressed his support for expunging the criminal records of those convicted of possession of small amounts of marijuana.
The Rehabilitation of Offenders Committee was established last year to review applications of first time and young offenders, who are defined as individuals under the age of 21 at the date of conviction.
It can 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.
In July 2018, the CARICOM Regional Commission on Marijuana recommended the declassification of marijuana as a dangerous drug in all legislation and the reclassification of the drug as a controlled substance, noting it should be treated similarly to tobacco and alcohol.
One month later, Cabinet approved the makeup of a commission tasked with examining the issue of marijuana in The Bahamas in order to make recommendations to the government. Its recommendations are expected to be tabled and discussed in Parliament.