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Bermuda’s ‛corporate cannabis’ Bill

The House of Assembly on February 19 passed the Progressive Labour Party’s new Cannabis Licensing Bill, which now heads to Senate for debate tomorrow. Let me offer a few thoughts…

Scott Pearman is Shadow Minister for Legal Affairs and Transport, and the MP for Paget East (Constituency 22). He can be reached at spearman@oba.bm

The reason for the One Bermuda Alliance’s opposition to the Bill is this: whatever your views on the cannabis debate, the PLP’s licensing Bill will not make you happy — ironic, perhaps, given the topic.

If you support the prohibition of cannabis, the drug will become more prevalent. If you support cannabis for medical use, the OBA already introduced that. If you support decriminalisation, cannabis was decriminalised in Bermuda in 2017 — surprising how few people know that. If you support legalisation, this Bill is not legalisation.

The PLP Bill actually provides for the licensed manufacture, importation and sale of cannabis. It is the licensing that’s the key issue here. Licences are about control and cash. At its core, this Bill promotes “corporate cannabis”. It’s about who imports it and who sells it.

So what happens next? If the Bill passes the Senate and gains assent from Government House, which are both open questions, then what does licensed cannabis mean for Bermuda?

Putting aside the arguments for and against cannabis use — and assuming this Bill becomes law — what troubles me is not cannabis use, but abuse. How will our small community cope with increased addiction?

The Bill gives the minister responsible for drug prevention a discretion to allocate a “percentage of … licence fees” to “programmes related to drug-abuse prevention and treatment”. The minister with this discretion, the Attorney-General, has confirmed she will exercise her discretion. Yet the AG would not reveal what percentage of the money would be used to prevent and treat addiction.

To me, this failure to confirm how much money will be allocated to fight addiction is unfortunate.

During the debate, Opposition leader Cole Simons warned: “No one can tell me that, other than for medicinal marijuana, which is legal now, this legalisation will not negatively impact young people. I understand Black empowerment and entrepreneurship. My question is at what cost?”

It’s a fair question: at what cost?

No matter your personal views on cannabis use, Bermuda already has significant alcohol and drug-addiction issues. If corporate cannabis means that considerable monies will flow to government coffers, should we not as a community commit to allocating money to combat addiction?

What makes for good education?

Let me pay tribute to a recent article contributed to by Ben Smith, the Shadow Minister for Education, which highlighted an important distinction at the heart of the school-reform debate.

The OBA senator pointed out that improving education is about supporting our teachers, students and parents; it’s not about new school buildings. Given the choice between spending scarce money on buildings, or paying more to our teachers, which do you think would improve education for our children?

Simple gifts

You are likely familiar with the expression “you don’t look a gift horse in the mouth”. It’s an odd phrase, but the meaning is clear: when someone shows you a kindness, be grateful.

Professor Google tells us the phrase originated from John Heywood in 1546, from an ancient time when horses were given as gifts. You don’t look in the horse’s mouth because the teeth reveal its age. A horse with a longer lifespan is a more valuable gift. So it is just plain rude to look in the mouth to check the teeth.

Fast forward now to the Premier’s recent attempts to pick a fight with Government House, trying to build his case for independence.

We are in the middle of a lethal health pandemic. The whole world is scrambling to obtain vaccines. Bermudians are fortunate indeed that Britain is now providing us with a third batch of vaccines. Isn’t gratitude Bermuda’s correct response?

Scott Pearman is Shadow Minister for Legal Affairs and Transport, and the MP for Paget East (Constituency 22). He can be reached at spearman@oba.bm

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Published March 02, 2021 at 8:00 am (Updated March 01, 2021 at 4:07 pm)

Bermuda’s ‛corporate cannabis’ Bill

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