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Legislation to licence cannabis tabled in House

A licensing regime for cannabis sales and production – with a range of fees and restrictions - will be introduced if proposed legislation is approved.

The Cannabis Licensing Act 2020, tabled in the House of Assembly on Friday, was designed to remove cannabis from the list of controlled drugs and create a variety of licences for the cannabis industry.

But it would remain illegal to have more than 7 grams of the drug without a licence, and cannabis will not be able to be used in public outside of licensed cannabis shops or events.

Use of cannabis by anyone aged under 21 would be prohibited.

Kathy Lynn Simmons, the Attorney-General and the Minister of Legal Affairs, said last Friday the Bill was the “culmination of a comprehensive social justice reform project to liberalise our cannabis laws in line with global contemporary thought, scientific evidence and overwhelming public support”.

The proposed changes included a series of licences which cover the cultivation of cannabis for personal and commercial use, the transportation of cannabis into, out of and around the country, the production of cannabis products and licensing for stores and events.

Licences would also be granted for scientific research into cannabis.

Licence holders would have to be aged at least 21 and with Bermudian status or, in the case of businesses, must be incorporated in Bermuda.

Licences would last for two years and the fees would range from $500 for personal cultivation up to $10,000 for a retail store licence.

The legislation also allows for a $250 non-refundable application fee.

Importation licences would be included in the cost of a retail licence and cultivation licences will include a limited importation licence for “planting materials”.

The importation licence would be single use and limited to between 5g and 7g of planting material for tier 1 licence holders.

The licences would also limit the “maximum size of the cannabis crop” with penalties for those who exceed it.

Cultivation would also be limited to areas that are more than 100ft away from schools and churches with “security surveillance” – including a contract with a security firm - for tier 2 cultivation.

Cannabis stores wwould face a similar range of location restrictions and security requirements.

The stores would also not be allowed to sell cannabis to anyone aged under 21 or sell more than 7g of cannabis to a single customer.

Cannabis shops would be allowed to remain open from 10am to 10pm, but operational hours could be varied through individual licences.

Unlicensed cannabis production, transportation or sale could result in a $20,000 fine and 18 months in prison for an individual or a $40,000 fine and five years behind bars for a “body corporate” under the legislation.

The scheme would be overseen by the Cannabis Licensing Authority – a body appointed by the Minister of Legal Affairs to grant licences and advise the Minister on cannabis-related matters.

The CLA would be made up of five minister-appointed voting members with experience in the fields of health, scientific research, business, planning and agriculture.

They would be joined by three non-voting ex officio members – the Attorney-General, the Collector of Customs and the Director of the National Drug Department.

The CLA would review and consider all applications, organise site inspections and ensure applicants comply with the act.

The application process would include a criminal record check, but the CLA could grant licences to people with previous convictions – if they are disclosed when the application was made.

The CLA would also be tasked to develop training programmes and distribute educational materials.

The authority would also collect licensing fees and the proposed legislation said the minister may order a percentage of the funds be put towards drug abuse prevention and treatment programmes.

The minister would also be able to restrict the sale, supply, cultivation or importation of some strains of cannabis after consultation with the CLA.

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Published December 15, 2020 at 8:00 am (Updated December 15, 2020 at 4:22 pm)

Legislation to licence cannabis tabled in House

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