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Are Britain’s Terrible Cannabis Policies Holding Back Legalization In Bermuda?

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Cannabis reform is on the move in the Caribbean region, with several countries now operating legal medical cannabis industries. So far, no country in the region has legalized cannabis for adult use, however, at least one country is somewhat close to doing so.

Last year the lower chamber of Bermuda’s legislature passed an adult-use cannabis legalization measure. After passage in the lower chamber, The Cannabis Licensing Act 2022 then went to the upper chamber where the bill hit a dead end.

The legislation was blocked from receiving a vote, and it has essentially collected dust for the last year. The upper chamber in Bermuda’s legislature can only hold up a bill for one year before it has to be sent back to the lower chamber for another vote, which is what has happened.

While the bill is likely to be approved once again by the lower chamber, it still faces an uphill battle after passage. One of the main reasons that opponents of the bill cite as to why they won’t support the measure is that they feel that Britain will not sign off on it. Per Royal Gazette:

The Cannabis Licensing Act 2022, tabled by Kathy Lynn Simmons, the legal affairs minister and Attorney-General, was drawn up to make recreational use of cannabis legal and to regulate production of the drug.

But, if passed as is likely, the legislation could create a flashpoint with Britain as Rena Lalgie, the Governor, has made it clear that the legislation would breach British international treaty obligations.

David Burt, the Premier, raised the stakes after he insisted that refusal of Royal Assent for the Act would “destroy” the island’s relationship with Britain.

Around the time of the passage of The Cannabis Licensing Act 2022 Premier Burt insisted that failure to grant Royal Assent to something that Bermuda passes would be unacceptable, as touched on above.

“This legislation will pass … If Her Majesty’s representative in Bermuda does not give assent to something that has been passed lawfully and legally under this local government, this will destroy the relationship that we have with the United Kingdom.” Burt said according to Royal Gazette at the time.

The best thing that Bermuda can do is to pass the legalization measure and put pressure on Britain to do the right thing and go from there. Unfortunately, as long as the threat of Britain blocking the measure is lingering out there, cannabis opponents will continue to point to it and drag their feet. It is up to supporters to overcome that hurdle.