Daniels: Cannabis should be legalised
A PLP senator has called for Government to move straight to legalisation of cannabis.
Marc Daniels said: “My personal position is we have full cannabis reform and I believe cannabis should be legalised.”
And he said legalisation would mean an end to people being placed on the US stop list for minor offences and reduce the number of people appearing in court to face drugs charges.
Sen Daniels was speaking after Senate debated a report on reform to Bermuda's laws on cannabis and marijuana.
National Security spokesman Jeff Baron told fellow Senators that Government favoured a gradual approach, with decriminalisation and the use of medical marijuana rather than outright legalisation.
But Sen Daniels said: “It's healthy to have these kinds of conversations, but it's very much political optics — I say that because it will be of limited effect.”
And he added a move towards decriminalisation rather than legalisation was “disappointing.”
He also criticised Government for failing to back an Opposition bill in the House of Assembly that aimed to legalise marijuana.
Sen Daniels, a barrister, said that current laws impacted disproportionately on young black men and that there was evidence that white people caught with similar small amounts of the drug were more likely to get off with a warning.
“That has an impact on our society — it's sad when young people in particular think ‘you're white, you won't get into trouble, if you're black, you will get branded,'” he said.
And — citing a recent book on Bermudian folk remedies using plants — he said that was “enough scientific data to suggest that cannabis has medicinal properties.”
Sen Baron said that Premier and Minister of National Security Michael Dunkley had “made it very clear” that legalisation was not on the cards — but appeared not to rule it out in the future.
“Our position right now, and I say right now, is we are considering various reports from the medical and health communities and others right now but we are not supporting full legislation,” said Sen Baron.
“We are not supporting allowing folks to grow this in their backyards.”
He said a policy that allowed police to decide where to issue a caution for possession of small amounts of the drug had lapsed under the previous Government, with the power to issue cautions going back to the Department of Public Prosecutions.
“The caution policy was removed in 2012 under the previous PLP Government. This is nothing to do with politics, it's about the relationship between the Bermuda Police Service and the Department of Public Prosecutions.
“One of my biggest interests in seeing any reform, the starting point is we had young Bermudians caught with a very small amount of cannabis who were unable to travel to the US for life.
“That's the starting point for me and one of the major considerations why we're looking at reform.”
And he added that Government's position, which is backed by existing legislation, was that medicinal use of cannabis involved “a relationship with medical community and their patients”.
Sen Baron said: “We're not going to stand in the way of that. There is legislation to cover that.
“We greatly sympathise with people with cancer or glaucoma who are suffering chronic pain.
“While some may criticise the pace, we have been marching forward. We're not standing still.”
Earlier, Government Senator Nalton Brangman questioned whether use of cannabis for medical purposes would create a risk of drugs being stolen — and said there would need to be strict controls.
Sen Brangman said that legalisation was “a bad idea.”