As perceptions around cannabis change, more countries open up to the concept. Bermuda may be the next Caribbean nation to propose a framework for a regulated market.
Senator Kathy Lynn Simmons, Attorney-General and Minister for Legal Affairs of Bermuda, released a video in early June proposing a medical cannabis framework for the country. A draft bill has been made available for public comment, and proposes notions such as a legal age of 21 and the possibility to purchase and carry up to 7 grams of flower.
With the bill would come the Cannabis Advisory Authority, who would be responsible for providing legal licenses and regulating the local cannabis market.
The proposed bill even goes as far as social justice reforms. Local government intends on keeping licensing affordable, so that “underserved and marginalized communities” may still be able to make the most out of this opportunity. Bermuda citizens who have previous cannabis convictions for possession of 7 grams of cannabis or less would also become eligible to have their criminal records removed. These previous offenders will also still have the opportunity to work in the cannabis sector.
Bermuda’s journey with cannabis began in 2018 with plans to legalise cannabis. 2019 saw the government provide a preliminary medical cannabis bill, which was also made available for public comment – but the bill had heavy restrictions, causing heavy criticism. Instead of simply ignoring the cries of the people, the government listened to the pleas of the people for a broader scope.
In the video, Simmons is heard saying that “Surprising for some, public attitudes have evolved apace with global legislative reforms and in recognition that opening up pathways for new economic opportunities and activity is needed,”.
In October 2019, Bermuda Premier David Burt noted the public response and announced that the government will be working to create a legal cannabis market suitable for the local context. This was followed up recently with the aforementioned draft bill for public comment.
“The Government again wishes to ‘take it to the people’ by commencing a one month public consultation exercise on the proposed scheme,”, allowing for the public to be heard and play their part.
The government will be accepting comments on the proposed bill until early July. Government have further asked the country to ponder questions such as how the bill can be improved, whether the licensing system makes sense, are licensing costs fair, for those who violate regulations – what repercussions should be in place and to raise any of their own concerns.
Cannabis reform has swept through the Caribbean lately, specifically since 2018 where The Caribbean Community (CARICOM), which includes 19 island nations, noted that the current cannabis framework needs to be reevaluated. Since this moment, various islands such as St Kitts and Nevis have legalised cannabis consumption, while others such as Barbados and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines have legalised medical cannabis.
Jamaica is the pioneer of the cannabis movement in the Caribbean. Jamaica legalised medical cannabis in 2015 and decriminalised recreational consumption at the same time. The local cannabis system in Jamaica has grown and flourished since.
What do you make of Bermuda legalising medical cannabis?