Now that the controversial Cannabis Licensing Act 2022 has passed in the House of Assembly – what now? Could we be in for a constitutional clash on Langton Hill
The Bill, designed to create a regulated framework that would make it legal to grow and sell the controlled drug, with a series of licences to be made available by a licensing authority.
That authority, will also allow people to possess more cannabis, grow and harvest it to sell and export as well.
Smoking cannabis in public will however, still be against the law except in designated shops and it will also be illegal to sell the drug to anyone under the age of 21.
But we’ve been down this road before, when the Act was passed in the Lower House in February last year, then voted down in the Senate, which forced the Government to put it on hold for a year.
Only this time around the Senate cannot do that again, so here we are, back to square one again.
The Bill was approved by 18 votes to six – all six OBA MPs voted against it.
Now it’s bound for the Senate again next week, where it will be passed as senators can only veto a Bill once.
Ultimately, the buck stops with Bermuda’s Governor, Rena Lalgie, who has already stated that the legalisation of marijuana for recreational use was a no-go zone under the UK’s international obligations.
And as a Overseas British Dependent Territory, without the Governor’s Royal Assent there was nothing happening.
That prompted Premier David Burt to warn that it was an issue that could “destroy” Bermuda’s relationship with Britain.Whether in fact that would happen remains to be seen.
The Bill was piloted through the House on Friday (Mar 25) by Home Affairs Minister Walter Roban, on behalf of the Attorney General, Kathy Lynn Simmons.
He told MPs that the legal changes may be destined to cause friction with the United Kingdom.
But he said: “That is the type of trouble this Government is not afraid of.
“The totality of the proposed legislation provides for better effective regulatory control to displace the illicit market and full economic access at a time when families are suffering and looking for new economic opportunities,” he added.
“It will provide the greatest good for the greatest number.”
His comments were echoed by Premier Burt, who noted that one of the main principles of the Bill places the cannabis industry under the “special programme” section of the Human Rights Act.
That section aims to “assist a group of persons to achieve equal economic opportunity”.
Cannabis plant at flowering stage, lit by warm morning light
He also noted that the Bermuda Monetary Authority had made some progress on how banking would be affected in a legal cannabis industry.
As it stands now, it is still illegal to be in possession of more than seven grams of cannabis in Bermuda.
Meanwhile, as far as the One Bermuda Alliance is concerned, their Shadow Minister of Legal Affairs, Scott Pearman, has already stated that “the only people who will benefit from this PLP Bill are those who will contol importation”.
Speaking in the Lower House on Friday, he questioned why the Government had not made any changes to the Bill that was tabled last year, saying: “Nothing has changed and that gives the impression that the Government is not listening, because there are serious problems with this Bill, highlighted by third sector, the Opposition, and the Bermudian people.
“This Government has had a year to think about this. Why do we not see any changes?
“The Opposition very much agrees it’s unhelpful to punish people criminally for cannabis use.”
But ultimately, he said it’s all “about money” and “corporate cannabis”.
He also questioned why there were no funds earmarked for counselling for addicts.
“Drugs do major damage to human beings,” said Mr Pearman.
” I have family members who are no longer alive today because of addiction.”
Deputy Speaker of the House, Derrick Burgess, said he had objected to the Bill from the very beginning, and asked: “How do we protect our children?
“If we can’t protect them I will always have a problem.
“We already can’t protect them from alcohol – why add this to the list?”
In any case, what will ultimately become of this Bill lies with Government House on Langton Hill.
Will it be the cause or case for trouble with Bermuda’s ultimate master in the UK, as already stated – remains to be seen.