Marijuana legalization is sweeping America. It’s also starting to take hold in other parts of the world. The Bahamas is considering a bill to legalize weed for medical and religious purposes. The Bahamas bill to legalize weed means the country is following nations in other parts of the Caribbean.
What Does Bahamas Bill to Legalize Weed Entail?
If the Bahamas bill to legalize weed is passed, people caught with less than 30 grams (one ounce) of weed would pay a $250 fine. However, the incident would not be recorded on their criminal record.
Marijuana could be legally purchased for medical and religious purposes. But recreational weed would remain illegal.
Licenses for retail, cultivation, and religious use would be granted only to entities 100% owned by Bahamian individuals. Permits for research, testing, and manufacturing would be awarded to entities that are at least 30% Bahamian-owned.
Marijuana for religious purposes could only be consumed on the premises of a licensed organization.
The government hopes to establish a Cannabis Authority to regulate the industry. The government body would consist of nine members representing “a faith-based organization and one person each from fields of banking, law, agriculture, scientific research, pharmacy, and medicine.”
The Cannabis Bill is the central piece of a package bill considered by the Bahamian government. Other aspects of the bill focus on changes to drug laws, health professional laws, and pharmacies.
“We have several licenses that will be in place and opportunities for Bahamians to participate, and we look forward to their participation. We do believe this is going to have a positive impact,” said Pinder.
Next Steps for the Bahamas Bill to Legalize Weed
The Bahamas bill to legalize weed is backed by Attorney General Ryan Pinder and Health and Wellness Minister Michael Darville. The two announced the proposed reforms at the last weekly Office of the Prime Minister Press Briefing.
Pinder stated that he hopes to have the bill 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. There is training, certifications, the digital platform for tracing and prescriptions, and all of that has to be done before the licenses are issued.”
Officials will also conduct a public consultation on the bill “aimed at including a wide array of experts and citizens from various sectors”. Some closed-door consultation sectors began just over a week ago. Pinder stated that open public meetings will take place in the future.
The public is also welcome to provide feedback virtually online or via email.
Marijuana for Medical and Religious Use
Bahamas bill to legalize weed would allow Bahamians to use it for medical and religious purposes. If passed, doctors could prescribe it to patients suffering from cancer, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, and other severe medical conditions.
“There are many Bahamians, some who suffer from debilitating illnesses such as end-stage cancers and various forms of depression that are not responsive to clinical therapy and post-traumatic stress,” said Darville.
The bill would also allow Rastafarians to use cannabis for religious purposes. It is often integrated into the religion as it is thought to bring worshippers closer to God. If the bill is passed, organizations that obtain special licenses would be allowed to use it during ceremonies.
A May U.S. State Department Report examined the relationship between marijuana laws and their potential to infringe on religious freedoms in various nations. It showed increased tolerance towards Rastafarians in some countries. Spiritual leaders say they are encouraged by recent legalization and decriminalization efforts.
Religious organizations in St. Lucia have reported incidents of the government engaging them on cannabis issues. Other groups in other countries have fought to end prohibition which limits their religious freedom. They reported seeing more improvement in 2022 as compared to other years.
History of Bahamas Bill to Legalize Weed
A government website backs the proposed bill. It states, “The comprehensive framework is not arbitrary; it’s rooted in research and the findings of the Caribbean Community Secretariat’s 2018 reports on cannabis.”
It also states Bahamas bill to legalize weed was authored by individuals who studied cannabis regulation in St. Vincent, Jamaica, Barbados, the Grenadines, and Canada. “This ensures that our legislation is in line with international best practices and tailored to our unique cultural and legal context,” the website goes on to say.
The bill originated in 2018 when the heads of 19 Caribbean nations agreed to “review marijuana’s current status with a view to reclassification.” Reasons for the review included marijuana’s impact on “human and religious rights”, criminalization issues, and its economic benefits.
Land Set Aside for Marijuana Cultivation
Bahamas bill to legalize weed will also designate a parcel of land overseen by the Ministry of Agriculture for cannabis cultivation.
“They set aside 25 acres in Nassau in the new agribusiness park that will be accessible for micro-cultivation,” said Pinder. “Needless to say, on the family islands, there is much more opportunity for agricultural land, especially on Andros and Eleuthera.”
Other Caribbean Nations Have Relaxed Their Marijuana Laws
If the Bahamas bill to legalize weed passes, the country will join other Caribbean nations that have recently relaxed their marijuana laws.
Antigua decriminalized marijuana for the public earlier this year. Jamaica legalized medical cannabis and decriminalized possession under 2 ounces in 2015. The U.S. Virgin Islands recently greenlighted marijuana for recreational and religious use.
Nations are changing their laws to become more religiously tolerant, to help their people enjoy the benefits marijuana offers, and to take advantage of its economic advantages.