DNA was first Party to indicate support for Marijuana law reform in 2016
FNM has been slow to address changing sentiments
PLP is pushing the DNA’s words with none of the commitment behind it
Caribbean moving ahead with reforms while Bahamas experiences delays
Real change on this issue can only come from the DNA
On June 28th, 2016, I on behalf of the Democratic National Alliance's 'Young Democrats' announced that the Party had accepted the recommendation of its youth branch to add the decriminalization of marijuana to the DNA's 2017 election platform. At the time, I commended the forward-thinking mentality of our country's young people who had rightly identified the economic potential of marijuana and the positive impact which the move to decriminalize will have on young men in particular. I take this opportunity to reiterate those comments, and to publicly applaud the Bahamian activists who have picked up the mantle of leadership on this issue where our elected leaders continue to drop it.
The 2017 general elections were landmark in our political history for many reasons, including the fact that for the first time a political party in our country had taken a bold and definitive stance on the Marijuana issue, which has come into greater focus over the past several years. Rather than waiting to see if the political climate was 'just right', we in the DNA were proud to trailblaze the campaign for "reduced penalties for the possession of small quantities of Marijuana", the proof of which can still be found online in our Vision 2017 & Beyond, but was also displayed on many Party-sponsored billboards around The Bahamas prior to the 2017 election. We also indicated that the records of those young persons with criminal records because of Marijuana possession should be expunged.
Now, PLP leader Philip Davis has made headlines for indicating his support for the very same policies the DNA had championed 3 years ago. It was only a few days ago on May 2nd where the deputy leader of the PLP, Mr. Chester Cooper, pre-empted Davis' comments. It appears the leaders of the establishment are tripping over themselves to adopt progressive positions on the legal status of Marijuana, but where were they just a few years ago on the campaign trail? More puzzling still, where was the PLP's urgency when they were at the helm of leadership? Time and time again, opposition Parties prove that they will change their tune just enough to get elected, but not enough to follow through on what they promised. We have seen this script before.
Any steps the PLP and FNM have taken to address the regulation of Marijuana in our law books can be summarized by the phrase "too little, too late". Indeed, while we waste precious time and squander potential competitive advantages 'talking' about this issue, our regional neighbours continue to outpace The Bahamas. Take for example Jamaica, where Cannabis for medical, scientific or therapeutic use can legally be prescribed to patients. In Trinidad and Tobago, Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley has already indicated that the tabling of legislation to decriminalize marijuana is expected in the middle of this year.
Contrast the diligence of these nations with the news coming from our own, where the report from The Bahamas National Commission on Marijuana, which is funded by the Government, has just been announced to be delayed by at least another 3 months. There is an argument to be made that even this commission only exists following the recommendation of the CARICOM Commission on Marijuana’s 2018 report. After all, Minister of Health Dr. Duane Sands' reluctance to move with purpose is well documented. It was him who had asked "why would two days or three days make a difference?" when pressed about the speed of government policy adjustments on this issue. Two or three days makes a difference when young people are held back from employment opportunities and sick persons are unable to access a natural form of treatment every day.
Unfortunately, leading from behind is to be expected from myopic leadership.
Of the political parties currently active on the landscape, it should be abundantly clear by now that the Democratic National Alliance remains the only entity with any credibility on issues beyond the theatrical. We look forward to the day the Bahamian people confirm our competence by elevating our political status - then, the work of enacting a transformative legislative agenda will finally commence.
Jayson Braynen, Vice Chairman
Democratic National Alliance