The Bahamas Attorney General Ryan Pinder and Minister of Health and Wellness Dr. Michael Darville announced the introduction of a compendium of legislation to decriminalize cannabis for medical, research, and religious use.
The total suite of legislation comprises 11 bills, the central component of which is the Cannabis Bill 2023, which would establish a framework for local cannabis production to address medical needs, foster economic opportunities for Bahamians, and ensure a well-regulated, safe and controlled cannabis industry.
The compendium of legislation primarily aims to decriminalize cannabis for medical and therapeutic use to bring relief to Bahamian patients facing various chronic and painful diseases and conditions. By allowing therapeutic cannabis options, the government seeks to improve the quality of life for those who most need it.
The Cannabis Bill would also establish a framework to capitalize on the economic potential of cannabis production, establishing a licensing system for cultivation, manufacture, transport, research, retail distribution, and analytical testing along with regulatory frameworks for quality assurance. Within the draft bill, specific attention is given to promoting local ownership and economic empowerment. Foreign investors are eligible to have up to 70% ownership in businesses related to analytical testing, manufacturing, and research. All other licensed areas would be reserved for 100% Bahamian-owned businesses.
The legislation would remove cannabis from the Dangerous Drugs Act and establish a new framework for rigorously regulating and safeguarding it as a controlled substance. Measures include establishing a maximum permissible THC dosage, required training for medical practitioners, limiting cannabis dispensation via training and licensing, outlining penalties for misuse and abuse, public education discouraging recreational use and abuse, and establishing a Cannabis Authority – a board-managed corporation that would oversee the development of policies, procedures and guidelines to regulate cannabis for medical, scientific and religious use.
The Cannabis Authority would be composed of 9 representatives from government, medical and pharmaceutical professions, agricultural, business, and finance sectors, academia, and the faith based and civil society communities.
The announcement marked the beginning of a comprehensive public consultation effort aimed at including a wide array of experts and citizens from various sectors. Attorney General Ryan Pinder stated that closed consultation sessions had already begun earlier this week, and that open public consultation meetings would be conducted in the coming weeks.