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UK’s rejection of island’s cannabis law branded as ‘colonial-style intervention’

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London banned Bermuda from changing its cannabis laws (Photograph by Christopher Katsarov/The Canadian Press)

Britain’s refusal to allow Bermuda to liberalise its cannabis laws has been branded a “colonial-style intervention” in the UK’s most famous newspaper.

An article in The Times by lawyers Charles Kuhn and Gabriella Bligh claimed the decision by London went against the tide of official opinion in a number of other countries.

Rena Lalgie, the Governor, said in September that she had been “instructed” by the UK foreign secretary not to give Royal Assent to the Government’s flagship Cannabis Licensing Act, which would have made possession and production of the drug legal.

The move, announced on the day Liz Truss left the foreign office to begin her brief, ill-fated tenure as UK prime minister in Downing Street, meant the reform could not become law despite being approved by the House of Assembly.

The Times piece stated: “A range of missteps have been blamed on Liz Truss, but one of the less well known is the future of the Bermudian cannabis market.

“At the former prime minister’s behest, British ministers committed to a cautious and conservative approach to the interpretation of international drug conventions and cannabis legalisation, while others are reinterpreting the conventions to allow for change.

“Crucially, the UK’s interpretation and justification for its colonial-style intervention in preventing the creation of a legal recreational cannabis market in Bermuda is contrary to most sovereign states’ interpretation of the international conventions.”

Liz Truss resigned as prime minister of Britain after only weeks in the job (Photograph by Kin Cheung/AP)

The article went on to state that the decision by Ms Truss regarding Bermuda “leaves the UK on the other side of the fence” regarding interpretation of international treaties on drugs.

The newspaper article stated: “It is clear that other countries are adopting more liberal approaches to reform. Indeed, Canada and Uruguay chose to simply ignore the conventions.

“Bolivia withdrew and rejoined with a reservation on chewing cocoa leaf, with very few international convention members objecting.

“The US is racing ahead with its attitude to the decriminalisation of narcotics.

“Some states have already decriminalised the recreational use of psilocybin and cannabis, arguing that the conventions are sufficiently flexible to allow for such a change.

“President Biden has recently called for a federal-level review of the decriminalisation of cannabis, which sets the US ahead of countries such as the Netherlands, where it remains a criminal offence to possess, sell or produce cannabis, except within limited parameters.

“In Germany, ministers intend to reinterpret the international conventions in line with the government’s public policy aims of health and harm reduction.

“Therefore, the Bermuda decision leaves the UK on the other side of the fence regarding the interpretation of the international conventions.”

The move by Britain to overrule Bermuda’s government has drawn international attention in the past.

Charles Kuhn is a partner and Gabriella Bligh an associate at the law firm Clyde & Co, in the UK.

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Published December 16, 2022 at 1:58 pm (Updated December 16, 2022 at 1:58 pm)

UK’s rejection of island’s cannabis law branded as ‘colonial-style intervention’

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