Plan to legalise cannabis use, cultivation

Cannabis use, cultivation and sale will be legalised if legislation tabled in May is passed, the Attorney-General said yesterday.

Kathy Lynn Simmons told the Senate that the consumption of cannabis at home or in licensed premises would be permitted, as well as cannabis sales, under a “simplified regulated framework”.

She said that the Cannabis (Licensing and Control) Act 2020 was the outcome of “reassessed” policies based on public feedback.

Ms Simmons said the proposals were in line with the liberal stance taken in Canada, where marijuana is legal for recreational and medical use, as well as in parts of the United States.

She added: “In time, we can envisage a Bermuda-branded cannabis strain being developed for export, and expansions in our tourism offerings to include cannabis-driven marketing, events and dedicated public spaces for safe cannabis use.”

She said consultation would include governmental bodies such as the Department of Public Prosecutions, as well as town hall meetings, to develop regulations on age restrictions and exclusion zones.

Ms Simmons added that a consultative draft Bill on medical cannabis was tabled last December, but provoked an “unexpectedly low” public response, which sparked Cabinet discussions on wider legislation.

Ms Simmons said: “The framework will include regulating cannabis use and consumption, permitting personal cultivation and commercial cultivation. It is intended that corresponding economic benefits will be directly available to individuals with respect to commercial cultivation.”

Kyjuan Brown, a physician and campaigner for medical cannabis, said the move was “smart — it's what the populace wants, and I have no problem with that”.

However, he criticised more delay on the introduction of medical cannabis and said he wanted the Government to understand “the urgency of now”.

Dr Brown added: “I have a patient, Natasha York, still having uncontrollable seizures.

“I put her on two medications which worked for a few weeks and are not working now. Cannabis helps with her seizures. I have patients dying of cancer who want pain relief. They don't have time for a consultative process that goes on for six months to a year.”

Dr Brown said he had been “talking to every minister responsible for the past four or five years”.

He added: “I will restate my case again.”

A spokesman for the Opposition One Bermuda Alliance said the move appeared to be “a very wide-reaching policy”.

He added: “We will await the legislation with interest as there are areas where we need to know more details.”

Legalisation of cannabis was hinted at in 2014 under the previous One Bermuda Alliance government, with cannabis-derived medicines such as the anti-nausea drug Marinol approved later that year.

The Progressive Labour Party decriminalised possession of seven grams or less of the drug in December 2017.

However, Ms Simmons said the Government had decided to go further after the PLP caucus backed “a regulated cannabis market”.

She added that the five-strong Cannabis Authority envisaged in the December legislation would remain “much the same”.

She said consultation would also be used to help draw a draft licensing and control Bill for cannabis, as well as regulations on the sale of cannabis.

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Published Feb 27, 2020 at 12:01 am (Updated Feb 26, 2020 at 8:25 pm)

Plan to legalise cannabis use, cultivation

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