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Minister denies talks being held with Britain on cannabis law

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PLP wants to legalise use and production of cannabis (File photograph)

A Cabinet minister has denied that behind the scenes talks with London are the reason for a delay in sending controversial legislation on legalising cannabis to the Governor for consideration.

The remarks came after OBA former premier Craig Cannonier said the fact that the Cannabis Licensing Bill had not been sent to Government House more than four weeks after passing Parliament was “unusual”.

Mr Cannonier insisted he had information that the delay may have been caused by correspondence between the Government and 10 Downing Street over the issue.

However, Jason Hayward, the Economy and Labour Minister, dismissed the suggestion.

Mr Hayward told a press conference: “I am not aware of any negotiations.”

David Burt, the Premier, has trumpeted the Cannabis Licensing Bill as a flagship piece of legislation for the PLP.

The measures legalising the consumption and production of cannabis passed Parliament on March 30, but the Bill has not reached Government House yet for consideration by Rena Lalgie, the Governor.

Jason Hayward, the Minister of Employment and Labour (File photograph)

The Governor and Mr Burt have appeared to be on a collision course over the issue.

Ms Lalgie has signalled in recent months that it is likely she would not be able to give the proposed laws Royal Assent as they do not comply with British international treaty obligations.

Scott Pearman, the shadow legal affairs minister, suggested it could have been Mr Burt’s intention to have the Bill fail from its inception.

The OBA has previously claimed that the cannabis move is in reality a “smokescreen” for a push towards independence.

A spokeswoman for the Governor had told The Royal Gazette in recent months that British officials were prepared to discuss the issues around the cannabis Bill 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.”

The Premier has said failure to receive Royal Assent for the Bill would “destroy” the island’s relationship with London.

After being rejected by the Senate last year, the Bill returned to Parliament in February and passed the House of Assembly 18-6.

A dozen PLP MPs failed to vote for the Bill, though some of them were overseas.

The legislation was tied in the Senate 5-5, but the Upper House no longer had the power to block it.

Mr Burt said after meeting British officials in London in November: “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.

“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.”

The Government has not responded to requests by The Royal Gazette to comment on the delay and provide reasons for it.

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Published April 29, 2022 at 7:42 am (Updated April 29, 2022 at 7:42 am)

Minister denies talks being held with Britain on cannabis law

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