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Governor and Premier on collision course over cannabis

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Governor Rena Lalgie (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

The Governor and the Premier appear to be on a collision course over a plan for the liberalisation of cannabis laws.

Rena Lalgie, the Governor, has made it clear legalisation of cannabis for purposes other than medicinal and scientific use, or some industrial procedures, was not permitted under the UK’s international obligations.

However, David Burt, the Premier, has insisted moves to allow recreational use of the drug and create a regulated business framework for its sale and consumption will go back before Parliament within months.

The Premier earlier warned that if the Cannabis Licensing Act did not get Royal Assent it would “destroy” Bermuda’s relationship with the UK.

The Government admitted last February that its cannabis plans went beyond the limits of international conventions on drugs, which the UK has signed up to.

Rena Lalgie pictured when she was sworn-in as the Governor of Bermuda. In attendance was the Premier of Bermuda, avid Burt

The legislation is not in line with the UK’s international obligations under the UN’s 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs.

A spokeswoman for the Governor said that UK officials were prepared to discuss the issue with ministers.

She added: “When a Bill is received by a Governor for assent, they will consider it in accordance with the Governor’s role, which is clearly set out in the Constitution.

“That includes considering whether the Bill is inconsistent with any international obligation.

“The relevant international obligations permit, subject to necessary controls, legalisation of cannabis for medicinal and scientific purposes, and for certain industrial purposes.

“Legalisation of cannabis for other purposes is not permitted, however, decriminalisation of possession of small amounts of cannabis is possible within the conventions.”

Governor’s statement

When a Bill is received by a Governor for assent, they will consider it in accordance with the Governor’s role which is clearly set out in the Constitution. That includes considering whether the Bill is inconsistent with any international obligation.

The relevant intentional obligations permit, subject to necessary controls, legalisation of cannabis for medicinal and scientific purposes, and for certain industrial purposes. Legalisation of cannabis for other purposes is not permitted, however, decriminalisation of possession of small amounts of cannabis is possible within the Conventions.

UK officials continue to make themselves available to the Government of Bermuda to discuss approaches that would enable Bermuda to meet their objectives whilst remaining compliant with the Conventions. Indeed UK officials have also been working with several Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies to help them establish a framework for medical cannabis industries.

The Premier earlier warned that if the Cannabis Licensing Act did not get Royal Assent it would “destroy” Bermuda’s relationship with the UK.

The Government admitted last February that its cannabis plans 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 Government House spokeswoman said: “UK officials continue to make themselves available to the Government of Bermuda to discuss approaches that would enable Bermuda to meet their objectives while remaining compliant with the conventions.

“Indeed UK officials have also been working with several Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies to help them establish a framework for medical cannabis industries.”

David Burt, the Premier (File photograph by Blaire Simmons)

Jason Hayward, the labour minister, said earlier yesterday that the island had leeway in some constitutional matters.

He added: “If you look at Bermuda’s constitution, Bermuda as an overseas territory has its own constitutional rights.

“To what extent we are bound to commitments that the UK engage in varies based off of a number of factors and so it’s not universal that everything that the United Kingdom accepts automatically has to be implemented in Bermuda.”

The cannabis law overhaul 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 given by the Foreign Secretary for Royal Assent by the Governor.

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Published November 25, 2021 at 3:43 pm (Updated November 25, 2021 at 3:43 pm)

Governor and Premier on collision course over cannabis

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