Government House has confirmed that Bermuda’s Governor, Rena Lalgie will maintain her position on the Cannabis Licensing Act 2022, passed in the Lower House last Friday (Mar 25).
The Bill, designed to create a regulated framework for the growth, sale and exportation of cannabis, passed in the House of Assembly 18 – 6.
Two Government MPs – Dennis Lister, the Speaker of the House and Derrick Burgess, the Deputy Speaker – were not required to vote because of their positions.
Ten PLP MPs did not vote.
The legislation is bound for the Upper House tomorrow (Mar 30), where Senators are only allowed to veto the Bill once; which they did last year.
But in a statement released yesterday, a Government House spokeswoman said: “Her Excellency shall reserve assent if she considers the Bill to be inconsistent with the UK’s international obligations, in this instance the United Nations conventions on drugs.”
The Bill was piloted through the House last week, by the Minister of Home Affairs, Walter Roban, on behalf of the Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs and Constitutional Reform, Kathy Lynn Simmons.
He told MPs that cannabis and cannabis resin were removed from the 1861 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs of the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs, two years ago, in 2020.
The move, he said “theoretically removes some of the structural hurdles for emerging cannabis industries globally”.
“It effectively allows for greater national competence for signatories to enact legislation allowing increased medical, scientific and industrial uses of cannabis without falling afoul of the three major international narcotics conventions,” said Mr Roban.
But he admitted that “the Bill’s provisions will exceed the proscribed limits of various narcotics conventions”.
On that note, he added: “The Government of Bermuda is pursuing all diplomatic and legal options to deliver on its promise to our people, fully cognisant of the UK’s role to ensure compliance with the international narcotics conventions extended to Bermuda.
“However, Bermuda, as a small overseas territory of the UK, democratically desires for social, cultural and public health reasons to chart its own distinct course in the difficult area of cannabis reform while adhering to international law to the greatest extent possible.
“The UK, through Government House, has confirmed support for Bermuda’s policies and legislation, only insofar as it does not contravene the UK’s international obligations.
“To be clear, the Governor has indicated that she will be unable to assent any legislation that contravenes our international obligations.”
Shernette Wolffe, the Clerk to the House of Assembly, said the votes were as follows:
David Burt, Crystal Caesar, Vance Campbell, Lovitta Foggo, Tinée Furbert, Jason Hayward, Dennis Lister III, Diallo Rabain, Walter Roban, Lawrence Scott, Jamahl Simmons, Scott Simmons, Ianthia Simmons-Wade, Kim Swan, Neville Tyrrell, Jason Wade, Michael Weeks, Kim Wilson.
Craig Cannonier, Michael Dunkley, Susan Jackson, Scott Pearman, Jarion Richardson, Cole Simons.
All of the “aye” votes were from PLP MPs and all of the “no” votes were from OBA MPs.
As noted, Dennis Lister, the Speaker of the House, and Derrick Burgess, the Deputy Speaker, who was the committee chairman, were not required to vote.