Bermuda Prepares To Lock Horns With United Kingdom Over Mature Use Cannabis – Cannabis Wire

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If the words of Bermuda Premier David Burt are to be believed, his administration is ready to lock horns with the United Kingdom after lawmakers in the British Overseas Territory’s House of Assembly approved legislation just before midnight on Friday to legalize cannabis for adult use. 

In the British Virgin Islands, which has tried to advance more incremental cannabis reforms, that approval was withheld.

“If Her Majesty’s representative in Bermuda does not give assent to something that has been passed lawfully and legally under this local government,” Burt said on Friday, referring to Rena Lalgie, the United Kingdom-appointed Governor for Bermuda,”this will ruin the relationship that we have with the United Kingdom.”

Burt’s words came as the last act in a contentious 8-hour debate, which eventually saw the House pass the Cannabis Licensing Act 2020, paving the way for anyone 21 or older to possess and buy up to seven grams of cannabis from retailers accepted by the projected Cannabis Licensing Authority.

All its territories in the Caribbean–Anguilla, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Montserrat, and Turks and Caicos Islands–have joined in on the broader trend of cannabis reform by considering, debating, or passing related legislation.

While much of the activity has concentrated on decriminalization or medical use, some lands, particularly Bermuda and the British Virgin Islands, have gone further by considering adult use cannabis. In the British Virgin Islands, this has caused friction between the elected government and the United Kingdom-appointed Governor, Augustus Jaspert, that has refused to approve the British Virgin Islands’ Cannabis Licencing Act and amendments to the existing Drugs (Prevention of Misuse) Act. Together, this legislation could decriminalize cannabis possession, launch a medical cannabis business, and, while it’s less explicit in its adult use provisions than Bermuda’s legislation, allow for anybody over the age of eighteen to possess up to a gram of cannabis”for medicinal or therapeutic use,” without requiring medical documentation. 

“It can not be that locally elected governments lay out their election manifestos, go to the polls, have broad public support, have the majority of the population supporting the direction of the nation, and for somebody who represents people 3,000 miles away to tell the nation,’no, you cannot,”’ Burt said, adding that he would resist any attempt to interfere with the growth of Bermuda’s cannabis industry.

“If our regime is modeled after Canada, another country where Her Majesty functions as the Head of State, and they can be in non-compliance having an antiquated global policy, I ask why it can not be the same for Her Majesty’s oldest colony of Bermuda,” Burt said. “What is the difference?”

Burt was responding to charges by Michael Dunkley, a member of the One Bermuda Alliance-led opposition, who said earlier in the argument that the Bermudian government had politicized the reforms.

“I don’t think this bill will find the Royal Assent,” Dunkley, a former Premier of the Territory and current Shadow Minister of Health, said. “If we were that serious about it, would not we frame a bill that could get Royal Assent?”

While Bermuda already removed criminal offenses to the ownership of seven grams or less of cannabis just over three years ago, the bill goes further by removing cannabis from the list of controlled substances under the Territory’s Misuse of Drugs Act. The legislation would place Bermuda at odds with the Misuse of Drugs Act in the United Kingdom, where adult use of cannabis is illegal as well as the medical use of cannabis was only made legal in 2018.  

Throughout the debate, Kathy Lynn Simmons, Bermuda’s Attorney General and the Minister of Legal Affairs, known as the continuation of cannabis prohibition in the Caribbean part of an”unjust colonial heritage,” adding that there is clear evidence that”systemic racialized disparities” continue to exist.

“It is well known that the United Kingdom is already entangled in a diplomatic stalemate with the British Virgin Islands because of the refusal to assent to two cannabis-related bills,” said Simmons. “It is reported that the United Kingdom is withholding assent as they weren’t consulted on the proposal’s development, and also to secure a memorandum of understanding granting the United Kingdom government a bargaining function in the Territory’s licensing.”

Simmons continued,”Should the United Kingdom’s government take a similar approach with Bermuda as what’s happened with the British Virgin Islands, the government of Bermuda would have to rethink its consent to the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs,” a international drug control treaty. Simmons later added,”Defending Bermuda’s democratic policy position on cannabis on the global front is the form of trouble this government is not afraid of.” 

Opposition lawmakers, however, remain unconvinced about the government’s motivations for proposing a bill that could see it struggle with the United Kingdom’s Home Office.

“This bill is about money–cold, hard cash. It is about corporate cannabis and commercialization of cannabis,” said Scott Pearman, the Opposition’s Shadow Minister for Legal Affairs. “In short, this is a statement about who manages and controls the supply of cannabis in Bermuda.”

“Leaving aside the money that will certainly be produced by a select few, what are the benefits that the legislation would provide?” he said. “As things currently stand, this bill offers only 1 thing:the prospect of a whole lot of cash in the hands of a few.”

Pearman added that Bermuda”deserves much better than the Government’s corporate cannabis bill,” mentioning the cost of licensing fees. For instance, personal cultivation license applications have the extra cost of a non-refundable fee of $250 and an annual fee of $500, while in other jurisdictions in the area, such as Trinidad and Tobago, no such licenses or fees are connected to private cultivation.

The Cannabis Licensing Act 2020 determines the Cannabis Licensing Authority to advise and consult with the government on the regulation of cannabis. It will also, according to its explanatory preamble, create licenses for the research, manufacture, transportation, import, and export of cannabis.

The legislation also proposes to maintain a series of strict fines for offenses relating to ownership above the legal limit or without the necessary licenses, and the use of cannabis in public spaces.

The Authority would also oversee the development of policy for cannabis industry banking, which is one critical part of the Government of Bermuda’s pitch to investors as it proceeds to develop its market in the cannabis industry, and in the region of medical tourism.

The Cannabis Licensing Act 2020 will be debated next in the Senate, which is expected to take it up until it debates the territory’s annual budget.

Bermuda’s tourism-based market has taken a substantial hit over the last year as a result of COVID-19 pandemic, which has resulted in an 80 percent decrease across all visitor groups and caused a near 10 percent decrease in gross domestic product, according to Ministry of Finance estimates. The government of Bermuda, along with many other Caribbean territories, has included cannabis revenue from fees and taxes as part of a plan to accelerate a fiscal recovery.

If the words of Bermuda Premier David Burt are to be believed, his administration is ready to lock horns with the United Kingdom after lawmakers in the British Overseas Territory’s House of Assembly approved legislation just before midnight on Friday to legalize cannabis for adult use. 

The last step would, however, require the signature of Bermuda’s governor, who, according to Bermuda’s Constitution, is required to assent to all legislation before it could be officially adopted. In the British Virgin Islands, which has tried to advance more incremental cannabis reforms, that approval was withheld.

“If Her Majesty’s representative in Bermuda does not give assent to something that has been passed legally and legally under this local government,” Burt said on Friday, speaking to Rena Lalgie, the United Kingdom-appointed Governor for Bermuda,”this will ruin the connection that we have with the United Kingdom.”

Burt’s words came as the last act in a contentious 8-hour debate, which eventually saw the House pass the Cannabis Licensing Act 2020, paving the way for anyone 21 or older to possess and buy up to seven grams of cannabis from retailers accepted by the projected Cannabis Licensing Authority.

All its territories in the Caribbean–Anguilla, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Montserrat, and Turks and Caicos Islands–have joined in on the broader trend of cannabis reform by considering, debating, or passing related legislation.

While much of the activity has concentrated on decriminalization or medical use, some lands, particularly Bermuda and the British Virgin Islands, have gone further by considering adult use cannabis. In the British Virgin Islands, this has caused friction between the elected government and the United Kingdom-appointed Governor, Augustus Jaspert, that has refused to approve the British Virgin Islands’ Cannabis Licencing Act and amendments to the existing Drugs (Prevention of Misuse) Act. Together, this legislation could decriminalize cannabis possession, launch a medical cannabis business, and, while it’s less explicit in its adult use provisions than Bermuda’s legislation, allow for anybody over the age of eighteen to possess up to a gram of cannabis”for medicinal or therapeutic use,” without requiring medical documentation. 

“It can not be that locally elected governments lay out their election manifestos, go to the polls, have broad public support, have the majority of the population supporting the direction of the nation, and for somebody who represents people 3,000 miles away to tell the nation,’no, you cannot,”’ Burt said, adding that he would resist any attempt to interfere with the growth of Bermuda’s cannabis industry.

“If our regime is modeled after Canada, another country where Her Majesty functions as the Head of State, and they can be in non-compliance having an antiquated global policy, I ask why it can not be the same for Her Majesty’s oldest colony of Bermuda,” Burt said. “What is the difference?”

Burt was responding to charges by Michael Dunkley, a member of the One Bermuda Alliance-led opposition, who said earlier in the argument that the Bermudian government had politicized the reforms.

“I don’t think this bill will find the Royal Assent,” Dunkley, a former Premier of the Territory and current Shadow Minister of Health, said. “If we were that serious about it, would not we frame a bill that could get Royal Assent?”

While Bermuda already removed criminal offenses for the ownership of seven grams or less of cannabis just over three years ago, the bill goes further by removing cannabis from the list of controlled substances under the Territory’s Misuse of Drugs Act. The legislation would place Bermuda at odds with the Misuse of Drugs Act in the United Kingdom, where adult use of cannabis is illegal as well as the medical use of cannabis was only made legal in 2018.  

Throughout the debate, Kathy Lynn Simmons, Bermuda’s Attorney General and the Minister of Legal Affairs, known as the continuation of cannabis prohibition in the Caribbean part of an”unjust colonial heritage,” adding that there is clear evidence that”systemic racialized disparities” continue to exist.

“It is well known that the United Kingdom is already entangled in a diplomatic stalemate with the British Virgin Islands because of the refusal to assent to two cannabis-related bills,” said Simmons. “It is reported that the United Kingdom is withholding assent as they weren’t consulted on the proposal’s development, and also to secure a memorandum of understanding granting the United Kingdom government a bargaining function in the Territory’s licensing.”

Simmons continued,”Should the United Kingdom’s government take a similar approach with Bermuda as what’s happened with the British Virgin Islands, the government of Bermuda would have to rethink its consent to the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs,” a international drug control treaty. Simmons later added,”Defending Bermuda’s democratic policy position on cannabis on the global front is the form of trouble this government is not afraid of.” 

“This bill is about money–cold, hard cash. It is about corporate cannabis and commercialization of cannabis,” said Scott Pearman, the Opposition’s Shadow Minister for Legal Affairs. “In short, this is a bill about who manages and controls the supply of cannabis in Bermuda.”

“Leaving aside the money that will certainly be produced by a select few, what are the benefits that the legislation would provide?” he said. “As things currently stand, this bill offers only 1 thing:the prospect of a whole lot of cash in the hands of a few.”

Pearman added that Bermuda”deserves much better than the Government’s corporate cannabis bill,” mentioning the cost of licensing fees. For instance, personal cultivation license applications have the extra cost of a non-refundable fee of $250 and an annual fee of $500, while in other jurisdictions in the area, such as Trinidad and Tobago, no such licenses or fees are connected to private cultivation.

The Cannabis Licensing Act 2020 determines the Cannabis Licensing Authority to advise and consult with the government on the regulation of cannabis. It will also, according to its explanatory preamble, create licenses for the research, manufacture, transportation, import, and export of cannabis.

The legislation also proposes to maintain a series of strict fines for offenses relating to ownership above the legal limit or without the necessary licenses, and the use of cannabis in public spaces.

The Authority would also oversee the development of policy for cannabis industry banking, which is one critical part of the Government of Bermuda’s pitch to investors as it proceeds to develop its market in the cannabis industry, and in the region of medical tourism.

The Cannabis Licensing Act 2020 will be debated next in the Senate, which is expected to take it up until it debates the territory’s annual budget.

Bermuda’s tourism-based market has taken a substantial hit over the last year as a result of COVID-19 pandemic, which has resulted in an 80 percent decrease across all visitor groups and caused a near 10 percent decrease in gross domestic product, according to Ministry of Finance estimates. The government of Bermuda, along with many other Caribbean territories, has included cannabis revenue from fees and taxes as part of a plan to accelerate a financial recovery.

Source: https://cannabiswire.com/2021/02/22/bermuda-prepares-to-lock-horns-with-united-kingdom-over-adult-use-cannabis/

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