Now that the Cannabis Licensing Bill 2021 was rejected Bermuda’s Attorney General, Kathy Lynn Simmons says: “The Government will not be deterred from taking the bold steps necessary to ensure economic opportunity for marginalized groups.”
This after Senators voted against the controversial Bill to legalise cannabis in Bermuda, by the creation of a regulatory framework for growing, selling and using the controlled drug, two weeks after it was passed in the Lower House.
The final count – six votes to five in the Upper House, where all three independent senators and three One Bermuda Alliance senators voted against the Bill.
In a statement released this morning, the Attorney General said the Bill was “approved by the people’s elected representatives in the House of Assembly”.
“Public support for this progressive initiative cannot be ignored notwithstanding the rejection of the Bill by the Opposition Senators and the Senators appointed by the Governor.
“The Government will not be deterred from taking the bold steps necessary to ensure economic opportunity for marginalized groups, appropriate safeguards and effective prevention education associated with the proposed regulated cannabis licensing regime,” said Ms Simmons.
“What this Government will not do is to allow the status quo, which does not reflect the people’s wishes, to remain – we will continue to press on.”
Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the One Bermuda Alliance said the Opposition Senators “rejected the PLP’s Cannabis Licensing Bill because the Bill itself failed to address important concerns from the community”.
“It was positive that the OBA Senators and Independent Senators came together to vote down this deeply flawed Bill. Cannabis is a complicated issue that requires thoughtful solutions, something the Bill severely lacked.
“There are many who are passionate about cannabis, both for and against. But the Bill in its current form was not the answer. It left too many unanswered questions and needs more time and thought,” the spokesperson added.
“The Senate vote today (March 3) shows there are many Bermudian voices not being heard by the Government. Even within the PLP ranks there are many who recognised privately the numerous flaws in this Bill. They must share these legitimate concerns publicly and put Island before Party.”
The Progressive Labour Party’s statement said: “The OBA and the Independent Senators voted against the will of the
Bermudian voter and stood against jobs and opportunities for Bermudians.
“The cannabis reform they opposed would have further reduced the criminalization of Bermudians and created jobs and opportunities for Bermudians. Now, Bermudians are forced to wait for entrepreneurial opportunities in agriculture, transport, research, manufacturing, and the creation of health products and consumables.
“The Cannabis Reform Bill was rejected by the OBA, and the Governor’s Senators would have meant additional revenue for the government; revenue for social programs, scholarships, and more.
“It is unfortunate, that in the 21st Century that jobs and opportunities as well as the will of so many Bermudians can be blocked by a politically rejected Opposition and Independent Senators appointed by an unelected, unaccountable Governor.”
As it stands now, the Bill will go back to the House of Assembly. If it is not changed, it then must be approved by the Senate in 12 months’ time. But if the Bill is amended by the Lower House, Senators would be able to reject it again.
Either way, it will not go to Government House for the Royal Assent at this stage.
Bermuda’s Governor, Rena Lalgie, has already indicated that she would not be in a position to sign the Bill into law because it would breach drug interdiction treaty obligations in the UK.