Where there’s smoke, there’s fire – cannabis Bill looks a precursor to war with UK
Recently, the Cannabis Licensing and Regulation Act has passed through the House of Assembly. It does not have to be approved by the Senate again and instead will head straight to the Governor for Royal Assent.
Despite being touted as a highly supported Bill, I have observed a very lukewarm reception to its passage. Those with a special interest have been vocal, but it has not inspired widespread elation. There is a sizeable number of Bermudians who use cannabis in one way or another. It remains to be seen whether that same community will support regulated cannabis and pay the increased cost to obtain it. The optimist in me hopes for job creation for Bermudians and the success of our entrepreneurs, but I remain concerned.
One of my biggest concerns is the implications of intentionally passing a Bill that sets us on a collision course with Britain, especially when lawyers have come forward with loopholes to avoid conflict. This demonstrates that this is an intentional move by the Premier, and the people of Bermuda need to ask themselves why?
Has the Premier got people’s hopes up about possible economic opportunities with no intention of getting the Bill passed into law? Does he have the political will to properly foster this economic framework for the cannabis industry to take off? It does not seem like strong support from his own MPs, as 11 decided to abstain, so how committed will the Progressive Labour Party be to truly supporting this industry?
I understand the optimism of those who are hoping to engage in this industry. However, there is still a huge amount of red tape stemming from the formation of a separate regulating body, the Cannabis Licensing Authority, which is riddled with fineable offences, and stringent requirements to obtain an operating licence. The legislation does not invoke confidence in the growth of an equitable industry. It fosters the environment for monopolies and very few carve-outs for smaller operations. Many say this legislation is a start or a step in the right direction, but will we get a finish?
We have seen this premier and, by extension, his cabinet make decisions solely based on political agenda — even against the better judgment of experts, two of whom have resigned recently. We have confirmation repeatedly that our premier is willing to intentionally mislead the public. How can we trust that his commitment to this Bill is legitimate and not a way to weaponise anticolonial sentiment by staging a confrontation with the Governor in order to set up another future election victory?
I am sure some of you will retort: “Well the OBA ...”
The One Bermuda Alliance is not perfect and there were mistakes made. The electorate gave us the boot and we have spent years since then atoning for our mistakes. However, this electorate has yet to send a message to the PLP despite its rampant blunders, sleight-of-hand tactics and overall failure to deliver substantive change for the people of Bermuda.
Its excuse for 15 years was the global recession, and now it’s a global pandemic. Yet other islands have improved their tourism product and financial position, and have seen positive economic growth. Why haven’t we?
The passage of this legislation may land us in a political climate where our relationship with Britain could become strained. I encourage Bermudians to engage in discussions concerning independence and our relationship with Britain, as this discourse is valuable. However, be aware of the politics at play here. These national conversations, if brought about, should be facilitated out of genuine intention to improve Bermuda, not for political capital.
I urge those who advocated for this Bill to pass to hold this government accountable. Be sure that it provides an even playing ground for all to benefit in this new industry, not just a select few. Continue to advocate for improvements to the possible regulation framework and make sure the Premier delivers what his government promised regarding a fruitful cannabis industry.
To those who opposed the legislation, continue to advocate for the protection of our community’s health. Keep the pressure on the Government to provide proper education on cannabis and rehabilitation for those who may require it.
The ball is in your court, Mr Premier, and your actions going forward regarding this industry and legislation will reveal your true intentions. I hope you put Bermudians first.
• Dwayne Robinson is the One Bermuda Alliance’s approved candidate for Southampton East Central (Constituency 30)