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Cannabis convictions could be expunged

Past convictions for possession of small amounts of cannabis could be quashed, a Cabinet minister signalled yesterday.

Kim Wilson, the Minister of Health who led the House of Assembly budget debate for the Ministry of Legal Affairs, said the policy was under consideration as part of a wider look at cannabis and the law.

Ms Wilson said: “Work will continue on this 2020-21 budget year, to advance from limited decriminalisation of cannabis to establish a robust licensing regime that will create a comprehensive framework that embraces the science of cannabis use for medicinal purposes and capitalise on the economic benefits of a regulated cannabis industry.

“This will be achieved by tabling a new Bill entitled the Cannabis Licensing and Control Act 2020, along with the attendant regulations.”

She added: “Consideration is also being given to expunging criminal records for convictions of seven grams or less.

“Such persons, with otherwise untainted records and who not would be prosecuted had the new law been in effect, would be considered to be free from this burden.”

Ms Wilson said the ministry's potential changes included the creation of a simplified, regulated cannabis framework, which could include regulated cannabis use and personal cultivation, after the public showed support for decriminalisation.

She said: “Moving from limited decriminalisation of cannabis to ending unnecessary, continued criminalisation and laying the framework for a medical cannabis industry presents many challenges.

“Our government has honoured its commitment to respond to the increasing numbers of medical professionals and patients embracing the science surrounding cannabis.”

Government decriminalised possession of less than 7 grams of cannabis in 2017 and pledged legislation to increase access to medicinal cannabis.

Kathy Lynn Simmons, the Attorney-General and Minister of Legal Affairs, who sits in the Senate, tabled draft legislation to legalise medical cannabis and establish regulations on licences for growers and importers, in the Senate in December.

Ms Simmons said at the time: “Public consultation is meaningful, at this stage, because now that a draft framework is fleshed out in legislation, we hope it encourages constructive feedback and comments, rather than fuelling polarising arguments in the abstract.”

She added: “I can confidently say that this Bill and the regulations will fulfil this government's promise to deliver new mechanisms for lawful access to medicinal cannabis, by way of a prescription from a medical professional and dispensed by a pharmacist and establishes the legislative infrastructure for the implementation of domestic medicinal cannabis production, while also satisfying Bermuda's international obligations.”

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Published March 13, 2020 at 9:00 am (Updated March 13, 2020 at 1:46 pm)

Cannabis convictions could be expunged

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