Spoiler alert: cannabis is just as illegal today as it was yesterday
Just in case anyone out there is of the belief that we have lost our minds and legalised cannabis in Bermuda, get off whatever it is you have been smoking — or drinking.
The decriminalisation of cannabis is about to come into law for the specific purpose of decriminalising our young men; in particular, our young black men.
But under no uncertain terms is this country giving them or anyone else a free pass to be skanking up and down our streets on a conscious high.
Cannabis is illegal in Bermuda and long shall it remain illegal, save for the possibility of medicinal use being cleared in future for those who absolutely need it.
Until such time, the police are well within their right to disrupt the lives of anyone found in possession of a drug that has brought more negativity into our lives — see the virtual manual on why gangs exist in Bermuda and the fallout from their existence — than it has brought positivity.
The only difference the change to the law brings is that they will not be hauling offenders in front of the courts when they have been caught in possession of anything less than seven grams.
The key word to take from the previous sentence, though, is “offenders”, for that is what they are.
The very same arguments that have been presented for the raising of the limit should be the reasons that our young men shouldn’t be delving into drug use in the first place.
It is quite rich to say job opportunities, school opportunities and opportunities to travel have been taken away from those who have criminal records as a result of a cannabis conviction. But not enough is said of them avoiding the drug altogether — especially when the risks have been made evidently clear over generations.
This is not a new drug. Nor are the penalties new. So why the repetitive moaning and groaning of an unjust system that targets our young black men when our young black men should have the sense to know that what they are doing is frowned upon by the law and presents worst-case scenarios that can have lasting effect.
To look death in the face and still try to cheat it is as insane as some of the driving that can be found on our roads — most of it by the same people, no doubt.
One of the first acts that Larry Mussenden put into effect when he replaced Rory Field as Director of Public Prosecutions in March 2016 was to outline how the country can help our young men who are caught up in cannabis use/abuse, while also giving warning by way of a “three strikes” regulation that could land offenders back in front of a magistrate — the very thing that the new legislation was drafted to prevent.
So just for clarity, here are the key points to note when our “young black men”, or any Bermuda resident for that matter, are caught with cannabis:
• The weight of the cannabis must be under three grams (to be amended to seven grams)
• An offender must admit to possession of the cannabis (failure to admit possession may lead to an appearance in front of a magistrate)
• An offender must not have other drugs on them at the time of the seizure/search
• Offenders under 18 years of age will be referred to the Department of Child and Family Services
• On a first and second arrest for possession of cannabis, a first caution and second caution respectively may be granted
• On a third arrest for possession, a caution may be granted on the following conditions:
1, A person will be bailed from the police station to return three months later — such time to be used to complete some tasks
2, An assessment must be made by the Bermuda Assessment and Referral Centre
3, An offender must undergo a minimum of 12 hours of drug counselling
4, An offender should pass a drug test
• If the conditions are met, a third caution will be issued; otherwise, the offender will be sent to court for prosecution.
• On a fourth arrest within two years of a third caution, the offender will not be eligible for a fourth caution
• Upon two years passing from the date of the third caution, an offender is re-eligible for a first caution
So there appears nothing to suggest in these regulations that drug offenders are getting an easy ride; it is just that duty police officers should not view this as yet another reason to turn a blind eye when the smokers’ brigade is stinking up another very public social gathering, ie, football match, cricket match, concert, etc.
They are committing a crime and should be dealt with accordingly. And in the instances where they are found with in excess of seven grams, possession with intent to supply can be offered as a charge in front of a magistrate.
So there you have it. Try walking down Front Street in this “New Bermuda” with a spliff hanging out of the corner of your mouth at your peril.
Other than stinking up the joint — pun intended — a first strike awaits, as long as our police service are not driven to distraction by a contact high.
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