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Sands: Govt won’t be rushed on marijuana issue

Minister of Health Dr. Duane Sands yesterday suggested that the government will not rush its discussion to either legalize or decriminalize marijuana, noting “we ought to do it right so we don’t have to backtrack”.

“This is a very serious discussion,” Sands told The Nassau Guardian.

“And, you know, I’ve heard that every single day that we delay that there’s some massive, negative impact to the people of The Bahamas. I don’t buy that. I think we ought to do it right so we don’t have to backtrack.”

Sands’ comments came amid a national discussion on whether the government should move forward with the decriminalization of marijuana.

Last month, The Nassau Guardian revealed that a preliminary report from the Bahamas National Commission on Marijuana proposes the expungement of all police records reflecting possessions of small amounts of cannabis.

The report recommends 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.

The Bahamas National Commission on Marijuana was initially given until April 2019 to submit its findings.

However, it has been granted several extensions.

Yesterday, Sands said it is too early to reveal when a final report will be submitted or when potential policy changes would happen.

“We had set a target,” he said.

“We’ve clearly extended that date several times and that’s a Bahamian several. So, the receipt of an official report is imminent. How imminent? I don’t know the answer to that. Is that tomorrow? This week? I don’t know. But we expect it to be any time now.

“The process that will then follow will be that it will be reviewed. It will then be discussed by the Cabinet of The Bahamas and recommendations, policy changes will likely arise in part on the basis of that report.

“I don’t believe that it is unreasonable for people to anxiously await the report. But I also don’t believe that it is unreasonable for the crafters, the writers, the commission to complete their work. Let them complete their work.”

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.

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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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