Bahamas Announces Legalization Plan

Stephen Andrews
10 Sep 2023

The government of the Bahamas has unveiled a proposal to legalize cannabis for medicinal, religious and scientific purposes. The legislative package, presented by top officials in the Caribbean country, seeks to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of weed. The legislature also foresees expungement for those with past convictions for simple possession. The new sector would be overseen and regulated by a special Cannabis Authority created by the government. 

Bahamas is the latest in a list of countries that has publicly announced intentions to regulate possession and legal production of cannabis. A cannabis reform on the island nation would aim to “ensure a well-regulated, safe and controlled cannabis industry,” the government said in a statement

A set of 11 cannabis-related bills were presented by Attorney General Ryan Pinder and Health and Wellness Minister Michael Darville in August. The Attorney General, Pinder, said he would like to have the legislature in Parliament by October. 

“The goal would be to debate them by the end of this calendar year, because there is a lot of work that has to go into setting up the authority,” Pinder said. “There is training, certifications, the digital platform for tracing and prescription and all of that has to be done before the licenses are issued.” 

What Will a Cannabis Reform Bring in for Bahamians?

If the Bahamas introduces a reform, it will permit doctors to recommend medicinal marijuana for patients with qualifying conditions like cancer, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, and depressions where the patient does not respond to conventional treatment. 

“There are many Bahamians, some who suffer from debilitating illness such as end-stage cancers and various forms of depressions that are not responsive to clinical therapy and post-traumatic stress,” said Health Minister, Darville. 

The policy change would not lead to a full-scale cannabis legalization, however. Possession of up to 30 grams of cannabis would be decriminalized, but subject to a $250 fine instead of a criminal record. Those with past convictions for simple possession would have their records removed as well. 

Under the new legislature, Rastafarians will be asked to obtain special licenses so they can freely use cannabis for religious reasons

Of the 11 bills consisting the proposed cannabis legislation, the most significant piece is the Cannabis Bill of 2023. The rest of the package is supplementary bills that mainly contain specification and new wording that will apply to existent health and drugs laws. 

For everyone who wants to open a cannabis business, they would need to be Bahamian and at least 21 years old. If the business is run by an ownership group, the group will also need to include a certain percentage of Bahamians, depending on license type. For example, testing, manufacturing and research licenses would require to be 30 percent Bahamian-owned. On the other hand, cultivation would need a 100-percent Bahamian ownership. 

The Bahamas’ announcement comes at a time when other Caribbean nations have already relaxed their cannabis laws. Antigua decriminalized marijuana use for the general public back in 2018, with the law saying that the possession of up to 15 grams on the person does not represent an offence. Jamaica has minimized the offense for small possession in 2015. In the U.S. Virgin Islands, cannabis is authorized for recreational and religious use. 

Also read on Soft Secrets:

- German Cabinet Approves Legalization Plan

- Luxembourg Lawmakers Agree on Reform 

- Medicinal Cannabis Legally Approved in Chile 

Stephen Andrews