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Education campaign to explain cannabis law

MP Michael Weeks. (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

A public information campaign to focus on the decriminalisation of cannabis was launched yesterday.

Michael Weeks, the Minister of Social Development and Sport, said that the public needed to know about the law changes, which decriminalised possession of the drug.

Mr Weeks added: “It is very important to recognise that cannabis remains a controlled drug under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1972.”

The campaign started last week with radio announcements.

Mr Weeks said social media and newspaper advertisements would also be used.

The Misuse of Drugs (Decriminalisation of Cannabis)Amendment Act 2017, came into effect on December 20, 2017.

Mr Weeks said: “What the Misuse of Drugs (Decriminalisation of Cannabis) Amendment Act 2017 actually did was to remove criminal offences for the simple possession by any person of seven grams or less of cannabis.

“The Act does not make it legal for a person to consume, cultivate, traffic or import cannabis in any quantity.”

Mr Weeks added: “The benefit of the decriminalisation of cannabis is that a person cannot be subjected to criminal prosecution for simple possession of seven grams or less of cannabis.

“It is our hope and our belief that taking this important action will help to prevent more young black men from being placed on the proverbial stop list and have their lives completely altered by virtue of not being able to travel to the United States to pursue further education or to seek other opportunities.”

Mr Weeks explained that the amendment did not erase cannabis convictions handed to people before the Act came into force and did not guarantee that travellers would not be stopped and turned back when trying to get to the US.

He added: “Such matters are outside of the control of the Government of Bermuda.”

Mr Weeks said parents should teach their children about drug use and the health risks associated with substance abuse in adolescents.

He added: “In addition to what I have already mentioned, the public should take note that under the Amendment Act, a police officer of any rank has the lawful authority to seize any amount of cannabis in the possession of any person.

“Thus, the Act does not diminish the power of the police to seize cannabis from any person, including young persons, as currently provided for under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1972.”

Mr Weeks advised the public that the Director of Public Prosecutions confirmed that the caution policy that was issued by him in February 2017 regarding simple possession of less than three grams of cannabis no longer has effect.

The ministry has produced a public awareness fact sheet, which is available on the government portal at gov.bm