There’s a new public awareness campaign now underway, to make sure you know that possessing seven grams of marijuana is cool – BUT don’t light up in public and think you can get away with it.
Flanked by two top ranking police officers, newly appointed Minister of Social Development and Sports, Michael Weeks, hosted a news conference on Monday.
The campaign was designed to put people in the know on the law changes in December that decriminalised the possession of seven grams of the controlled drug or less.
But the importation, distribution,r possession, smoking weed in public, or the possession of more than seven grams is still illegal.
“It is very important to recognise that cannabis remains a controlled drug under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1972 ” said Mr Weeks.
“What the Misuse of Drugs (Decrimilisation of Cannabis) Act 2017 actually did was to remove criminal offences for the simple possession by any person of seven grams or less of cannabis.
“The Act does not make it legal for a person to consume, cultivate, traffic or import cannabis in any quantity.”
The main objective he said lies solely with the so-called ‘Stop List’ that has blocked countless Black males in particular, from travelling to the United States because of cannabis convictions.
“The benefit of the decrimilisation of cannabis is that the person cannot be subjected to criminal prosecution for simple possession of seven grams or less of cannabis,” Mr Weeks said.
“It is our hope and our belief our taking this important action will help to prevent more young black men from being placed on the proverbial stop list and have their lives completely altered by virtue of not being able to travel to the United States to pursue further education or to seek other opportunities.”
But the recent amendment does not wipe the slate clean for all those convicted prior to the Act. And it won’t stop US bound travellers who fall in this category, from being stopped at the border, so to speak.
“Such matters are outside the control of the Government of Bermuda,” said Mr Weeks.
He also noted that the caution policy for simple possession of less than three grams of cannabis has been tossed.
But the new policy “does not diminish the power of the police to seize cannabis from any person, including young persons”.
“A police officer of any rank has the lawful authority to seize any amount of cannabis in the possession of any person,” said Mr Weeks.
“In parallel with efforts to raise public awareness on decriminalisation of cannabis, Government will continue to raise education awareness in relation to health risks associated with substance abuse in adolescents,” he added.
But when it comes to minors, he said: “It is not our intent to remove parental responsibility, which must remain in the hands of parents, who, using their best judgment and the best information that is available to them, should provide guidance to their children regarding substance abuse and misuse.
“However, the Amendment Act provides the Minister of Social Development and Sports with the power to make regulations in relation to substance abuse education or treatment for any person, and in particular a minor, who is found to possess any amount of cannabis.”