Tourists face stiff fines for cannabis
Two American tourists were fined a combined total of $12,000 in Magistrates’ Court for having prescription-based “medical marijuana” after spending several days in custody in Hamilton Police Station.
Serenade of the Seas passengers David Hutchins, 23, from Amherst, Massachusetts, and Ronald Bernard, 57, from Rhode Island, both admitted to separate charges before magistrate Juan Wolffe yesterday.
Mr Wolffe told Bernard it was “mind boggling” that he would risk carrying the drug into a foreign country.
He fined Hutchins a total of $7,000 for the six offences and ordered that the full sum be paid before he can leave the island.
Mr Wolffe heard that on the morning of Wednesday, September 26, Hutchins was disembarking from the Serenade at King’s Wharf, Ireland Island, when Customs officers noticed he had plantlike material and a vaporiser with him, which Hutchins admitted were his.
A search of his cabin revealed chocolate, gummy bears, oil and wax, all of which contained active ingredients of cannabis.
Hutchins, trembling uncontrollably in court, admitted five counts of importation of cannabis and cannabis products, along with the possession of drug equipment. Richard Horseman, Hutchins’s defence lawyer, said he had a medical marijuana card and took the drug to deal with spinal and mental health problems, including anxiety.
Mr Horseman said: “There was not an intention to bring all of that on to the island. He was on a cruise and be brought along more than he maybe needed, which was a mistake.”
He told the court Hutchins had been visiting the island with his family as his parents celebrated their 30th wedding anniversary.
His arrest meant his family had remained on the island after the cruise ship departed.
Mr Horseman said Hutchins’s decision to bring the drugs to Bermuda was a “grave error” and that he had already spent more than two days in custody.
Hutchins, who trembled as he addressed the court, apologised and said he should have made himself more aware of the law in Bermuda.
He added: “I made a very big mistake. I had no intention to disrespect the island or the court system.”
Mr Wolffe said he accepted that the drugs were not intended for distribution, but that drug offences were still serious offences.
The court heard that hours after Hutchins was arrested, a Customs sniffer dog alerted officers to the cabin Bernard shared with his wife. When the door opened, officers detected a strong scent of cannabis.
Bernard admitted he had the drug, and a search of his cabin revealed 10.36g of cannabis and a cartridge containing cannabis products, and was fined $5,000 for the four offences.
Bernard pleaded guilty to four charges, including the importation of the drugs and possession of drug equipment.
He said: “My intent was never to bring it on to the island, although I now understand that I shouldn’t have brought it into Bermuda’s territorial waters.”
Bernard added he used the drug to help cope with knee and shoulder pain. He added: “I know that doesn’t make it right or acceptable.”
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