Burt accused of using cannabis policy as diversion from island’s problems
The Premier has been accused of using the Government’s cannabis policy to divert voters away from the island’s problems.
Cole Simons, the One Bermuda Alliance leader, said David Burt and his Progressive Labour Party administration should concentrate more on problems such as gang violence and healthcare than on the liberalisation of drugs laws.
He was speaking after Mr Burt insisted he had “no intention” of amending legislation to licence cannabis production to fit with the UK stance that allowed use of the drug for medicinal purposes only.
Mr Simons told The Royal Gazette the Government needed to be more detailed in its approach to drug use.
He said: “The Premier is very good at diversion and he is using cannabis as a diversion from other issues.
“I would say that there are more important issues than cannabis, such as healthcare and helping young people reject gangs.
“I would say the Premier’s attitude on cannabis is political, quite frankly.
“What is his long game? We need to know the details.”
Questions have also been raised over whether the Government’s cannabis policy would receive Royal Assent if it passed through the legislature in its present form.
Mr Burt said that legislation on cannabis in Bermuda would be back before Parliament in the next few months.
The Government admitted last February that plans for legalised cannabis went beyond the limits of international conventions on drugs, which the UK has signed up to.
The legislation is not in line with the UK’s international obligations under the UN’s 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs.
The Bermudian legislation was passed by the House of Assembly but blocked by the Senate in the last parliamentary session.
But the Senate can only halt legislation for a year, after which the House of Assembly can force it through.
Mr Burt said after recent London meetings with British ministers and leaders from other Overseas Territories: “It was critical to make it clear that there is no intention by the Government of Bermuda to amend the current legislation to conform to the 60-year-old convention that allows cannabis supply for medicinal purposes only.
“Many countries, such as Canada, that allow regulated supply of cannabis for non-medicinal purposes, are signatories to that convention.
“The overall intent of the legislation is clear, and it enjoys the support of the Bermuda electorate, which was confirmed at the last General Election.”
Mr Burt added that, once the legislation passed in the House of Assembly, the Government’s “expectation” was for permission to be granted by the Foreign Secretary for Royal Assent by Rena Lalgie, the Governor.
Mr Burt earlier warned that failure to rubber stamp the cannabis legislation would “destroy the relationship that we have” with the UK.
The Cannabis Licensing Act would legalise the drug for recreational use and create a regulated business framework for its sale and consumption.