The Bahamas National Commission on Marijuana expects to complete a crucial public survey on whether cannabis should be legalized by mid-April.

The commission was split on whether adult-use cannabis should be legalized. It agreed to put the matter to a public poll in a bid to break the deadlock.

Commissioners must first decide on whether to use the Department of Statistics or turn to a private company to conduct the survey. Co-chairman Quinn McCartney said it should have the survey ready and pollsters in place within the next week or two.

“I would say early March and that should be a four to six-week process, so certainly by mid-April we should be finished with the survey,” said McCartney.

Last week Prime Minister Hubert Minnis read out a preliminary version of the commission’s report on how the Bahamas should proceed with cannabis policy. It will file a final report with recommendations on cannabis reform after taking on board public feedback.

An earlier version of the report included a recommendation for recreational and medical marijuana to be legalized. However, it has subsequently transpired that some commissioners were not yet prepared to endorse recreational legalization. The results of the survey could therefore prove crucial.

The commission has provisionally filed 24 recommendations, which include legalizing medical cannabis and marijuana tourism, along with the import of medical marijuana products to treat certain conditions. Previous convictions for possession of cannabis would also be expunged.

“My government is committed to reforming our marijuana laws and to clearing the records of those who seek to do better,” Minnis said.

The Bahamas is actually in the southern Atlantic Ocean, but it is generally grouped in with Caribbean nations. On that basis, it would become the first country in the region to legalize adult-use marijuana if the survey goes accordingly.

However, it would not immediately lead to a commercial marijuana industry springing up. First cannabis would be decriminalized, while Rastafarians could cultivate it for sacramental purposes.

The government would then monitor the experiment and analyze the results before fully legalizing it. Only then could commercial sales begin.

There has never been a widespread poll on legalizing adult-use cannabis. A 2018 survey found that 71% of Bahamians favoured the legalization of recreational marijuana.

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