NASSAU, The Bahamas – Dr Hubert Minnis, who recently became The Bahamas’ first sitting Prime Minister to publicly support some form of marijuana decriminalization, says people with convictions for possession of small amounts of the drug should have their records expunged.
He spoke about the issue in a statement a week after expressing support for decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of cannabis and making the substance legal for medicinal and scientific purposes.
“Our laws regarding the possession of small amounts of marijuana have unfortunately led to the arrest, prosecution, conviction and punishment of many Bahamians. Some of these people have been burdened with criminal records, making travel and finding work more difficult,” Prime Minister Minnis said.
“Reforming our marijuana laws and changing how we treat people with small possession convictions is a matter of social justice. I support expunging the records of Bahamians convicted of possession of small amounts of marijuana. They deserve to move on with their lives free and clear of a criminal conviction.”
Minnis said he was eagerly awaiting the findings in the report by the Bahamas National Commission on Marijuana (BNCM) which was given a mandate by Cabinet last year to comprehensively examine issues surrounding the use of marijuana. He said his government will use the recommendations to help reform the country’s marijuana laws.
“Part of this reform should be expunging the records of Bahamians convicted of possession of small amounts of marijuana. Being from the Over-the-Hill community, I have seen first-hand how our current laws especially harm young people from modest backgrounds,” he said.
However, the BNCM Co-Chair Quinn McCartney has assured that the prime minister’s comments would not influence the commission’s findings or the contents of the report.
“The prime minister is a member and citizen of the Bahamas and as a citizen, he is entitled to express his views and we are pleased to hear his (comments), but I think it’s safe to say that it won’t influence our decision at all. We will look at his comments like we look at everybody else comments,” he told the Tribune newspaper.
“We are getting the views of persons far and wide throughout the Commonwealth of the Bahamas…and we know that this is an initiative that certainly the government is interested in hearing about and more importantly, the public is waiting to hear from us.”
A Rehabilitation of Offenders Committee has also been formed and is reviewing a number of matters for recommendation, and Prime Minister Minnis said the recommendations from that committee would also be taken into consideration.