Log In

Reset Password

Cannabis legalisation fails to pass Senate again – but no more delays allowed

The Senate heard that “smoking weed” should not be seen as normal as the Upper House split down the middle on a vote yesterday on whether to legalise cannabis.

The vote on the second reading of the Cannabis Licensing Act 2022 was tied — but under parliamentary rules, that is classed as a loss.

But the Senate, which blocked the legislation for a year after a vote in 2021, cannot delay it any longer.

John Wight, an independent senator, said he had “many grounds” for voting against the legalisation move.

Mr Wight added: “My No 1 concern about this Bill relates to the health of Bermudians and particularly the younger generations, when we send the clear message that smoking weed is now an accepted norm in our society.”

But the legislation can still become law if signed by the Governor, Rena Lalgie.

The Government made it clear it expected Britain not to block the election pledge on cannabis legalisation, which has now twice been backed by MPs in the House of Assembly.

But Ms Lalgie has said that she will not give Royal Assent if the legislation contravenes United Nations drug conventions to which Britain is a signatory.

The legislation was designed to legalise cannabis and establish a regulatory authority to oversee the cultivation and sale of the drug.

It was passed for a second time in the House of Assembly on Friday by a vote of 18-6, with all six opposition One Bermuda Alliance MPs voting against it.

The three independent senators united to condemn the Bill and insisted it would harm the island rather than provide a benefit.

Mr Wight said: “In a community with so many concerning health issues, I am very concerned about the increased mental illness from those new users following the adoption of this being an acceptable norm.

“The research that I have read concludes that cannabis use increases the risk of schizophrenia, and other psychoses, depression, and anxiety.

“Marijuana affects brain development, especially in people under 25. When people begin using marijuana as teenagers, the drug inhibits the ability to learn.”

Mr Wight highlighted a 2019 government report which found that cannabis use in the young resulted in an increase in delinquency and mental health problems.

He said: “We need Bermuda’s youngest generation to be energised and excited about the future of this country. The excerpt I just read is contrary to how I believe we need to be supporting Bermuda’s leaders of tomorrow.

“The personal toll of risking in Bermuda what other jurisdictions have already experienced following adoption of similar legislation makes no sense to me.

“In a discussion I had recently with a professional in Bermuda who has been in the field dealing with young adults, I was educated by her that we already have a percentage of our youth who are unskilled and undereducated, and addicted to weed.

Mr Wight also dismissed the Government’s claims that a regulated cannabis industry would be a major boost to the economy.

He said: “Cannabis as a business is based on scale and capital — thus the individuals most likely to benefit financially from this legislation are not the unemployed or underemployed, who need our support.

“My opinion is that this Bill as brought forward is not good for Bermuda and I will not support it.”

Michelle Simmons, also an independent, said she was opposed to the legislation.

Ms Simmons asked: “What will Bermuda gain if this Bill is signed into law? Nothing that will help to improve our community.”

She said: “There will be increased cannabis use, even by people who would never had considered using it in the past. We don’t need another legal intoxicant in our society.”

Ben Smith, the Opposition Senate Leader, also questioned why the Government had not made changes to the Bill in the past 12 months or responded to concerns raised by the OBA.

He added that the Bill would send a confusing message to young people.

Mr Smith said: “Don’t do it. Stay away from cannabis because it’s bad for you. But we support it, because we can make money out of it.“

Robin Tucker, of the OBA, highlighted that the Bill was unaltered from the one tabled a year ago and questioned why the Government had not made any adjustments.

She highlighted the “serious health impacts” that cannabis had on young people and warned there were ‘insufficient guardrails” to protect the young.

Ms Tucker said: “We have a duty and a responsibility that we make sure we do not provide a framework for these children for letting them think this is OK.

“I get the whole economic part, but I’m not willing to trade in making money at the expense of the people.”

But Lindsay Simmons, a government senator, insisted that there were adequate safeguards.

Ms Simmons said: “This legislation is giving us the framework to protect our children.”

Another government senator, the Reverend Emily Gail Dill, said she was at first opposed to the legalisation but changed her mind after she carried out research.

She said that cannabis was less dangerous than alcohol or tobacco.

Dr Dill added: “I applaud legislation that no longer demonises the choice a person makes.“

Douglas De Couto, an OBA senator, did not take part in the vote. No reason was given for his absence.

A government spokesman said: “In the Government’s 2020 election platform the Government promised to ‘structure the regulation of cannabis to protect our children and create economic opportunity’.

“Following today’s Senate proceedings, this promise is now a further step towards fulfilment.”

The spokeswoman added: “The history of our relationship with the UK Government is one where the UK recognises and respects the results of elections and the responsibility of elected representatives to deliver on election promises.

“The Government expects that this Bill will be treated in keeping with that well established constitutional path and looks forward to the Bill becoming law.”

You must be Registered or to post comment or to vote.

Published March 31, 2022 at 7:53 am (Updated March 31, 2022 at 7:53 am)

Cannabis legalisation fails to pass Senate again – but no more delays allowed

What you
Need to
1. For a smooth experience with our commenting system we recommend that you use Internet Explorer 10 or higher, Firefox or Chrome Browsers. Additionally please clear both your browser's cache and cookies - How do I clear my cache and cookies?
2. Please respect the use of this community forum and its users.
3. Any poster that insults, threatens or verbally abuses another member, uses defamatory language, or deliberately disrupts discussions will be banned.
4. Users who violate the Terms of Service or any commenting rules will be banned.
5. Please stay on topic. "Trolling" to incite emotional responses and disrupt conversations will be deleted.
6. To understand further what is and isn't allowed and the actions we may take, please read our Terms of Service
7. To report breaches of the Terms of Service use the flag icon