Bermuda’s Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs has tabled legislation in the Senate to legalise medical marijuana with regulations to govern licences for growers and importers with the establishment of a Medical Cannabis Authority (MCA).
Senator Kathy Lynn Simmons told members of the Upper House that the Bill will serve as a public consultation draft, as there were “passionate views” and various opinions on the subject by medical experts.
“Public consultation is meaningful, at this stage, because now that a draft framework is fleshed out in legislation, we hope it encourages constructive feedback and comments, rather than fuelling polarising arguments in the abstract,” she said.
“I can confidently say that this Bill and regulations will fulfil this Government’s promise to deliver new mechanisms for lawful access to medicinal cannabis by way of a prescription from a medical professional and dispensed by a pharmacist and establishes the legislative infrastructure for the implementation of domestic medicinal cannabis production, while also satisfying Bermuda’s international obligations.
“The proposed framework will also include sufficient regulation and controls to prevent abuse of the domestic medicinal cannabis scheme.:
Moving forward, the Minister said the cannabis authority would regulate cultivation, importation for cultivation and possession when prescribed by a doctor for inhalation.
The MCA would also govern exportation of the drug, in addition to the manufacture of cannabis products, research and development and transportation.
The Medicinal Cannabis Act 2019 would also “establish a licensing scheme for the local cultivation and manufacturing of cannabis for medicinal and scientific purposes, to provide for monitoring, inspection and enforcement powers for inspectors and to empower the Minister to give directions to the authority”.
“The accompanying regulations will be stringent, providing extensive provisions for the application requirements necessary for the various types of licences available under the medical cannabis scheme and will also prescribe to whom and how a licence will be granted or may be renewed or revoked,” said Sen Simmons.
“Furthermore, the regulations give the Medicinal Cannabis Authority sufficient discretionary powers to impose various conditions on a licence before it is granted.”
The MCA would also be able to use its funds to boost social programmes to tackle drug abuse.
Additionally, the MCA will also be responsible for an ID card scheme, a central register and compulsory record keeping by doctors.
Patients with a valid ID card will be allowed to use and carry medicinal cannabis. Authorised caregivers can also be designated by users of the drug so they can assist with obtaining and administering medical cannabis without the risk of breaking the law.
The Bill and regulations also outline the legislative framework for a Bermudian medical cannabis industry.
“Private enterprise and free market forces will determine over time the size and economic benefits of such an industry.
“Assuredly, Bermuda’s economic heritage allows us to capitalise on our strengths, such as size, scale and ease of regulation.”
Sen Simmons also noted that Bermuda enjoys a good reputation for it regulation in other sectors like reinsurance.
“This scheme creating a medicinal cannabis industry is no different. The vision is, if we build it — well — they will come,” she said.
“In this regard, this Government has taken a measured approach in tackling this issue; understanding that to achieve long-term transformation of public attitudes toward the medicinal benefits of cannabis requires leadership.”
On that note, she added: “Leadership is needed to undo decades of negative stereotyping, psychological conditioning and demonisation of the cannabis plant, to the disadvantage of not exploiting all of its many health benefits to the human body.
“As global trends have indicated, liberalisation of cannabis laws is inevitable and unavoidable, even for a remote island like Bermuda.
The Minister concluded: “I implore all sectors of society—not just interest groups and entrepreneurs, but all Bermudians—to take time to read and comment on this Bill and Regulations.
“We will review and analyse the comments to optimise the Bill and Regulations before they are tabled in the Legislature.”
The legislation and instructions on how submit comments will be available at www.gov.bm and forum.gov.bm.