(CMR) The United Kingdom has refused to give Bermuda formal permission to enact a law to legalize and regulate marijuana.
This is a development that top Bermuda officials and UK reform advocates are not taking lightly, with some characterizing it as colonialist era overreach by the UK that may rise to the level of a constitutional crisis, Marijuana Moment reported.
Lawmakers in Bermuda approved the cannabis legalization proposal earlier this year, but it was withheld for months as the government awaited “royal assent“, a formal, monarchical sign-off on legislation—from the UK-appointed governor of the territory.
On Tuesday, as the new UK Prime Minister took office, the government informed Bermuda that it had decided “not to assent to the bill as drafted.”
According to Governor of Bermuda Rena Lalgie, the UK said it couldn't give its authorization based on its interpretation of international treaties that bar member states from legalizing cannabis for reasons beyond medical or scientific use.
Bermuda's attorney general said in a statement on Tuesday the government will press on to enact the reform despite the denial of assent.
“Disappointing but not surprising, given the confines of our constitutional relationship with the UK Government and their archaic interpretation of the Narcotic Conventions,” Attorney General Kathy Lynn Simmons said.
“The People of Bermuda have democratically expressed their desire for a regulated cannabis licensing regime following the strong endorsement at the ballot box and an extensive public consultation process,” she added.
Simmons further stated that “The Government of Bermuda intends to continue to advance this initiative, within the full scope of its constitutional powers, in keeping with our 2020 General Election Platform commitment.”
Under the Bermuda proposal, a marijuana regulatory authority would be established to manage cannabis business licensing and make recommendations on future policies. Adults 21 and older could possess up to seven grams in a “public place,” or more if they have a valid license type. The “intent” of the bill is to prioritize licensing for people disproportionately impacted by the drug war.
Fees collected by licensees would cover the costs of administering the program, and that revenue could also be divided up to support drug treatment programs, cultivation training for licensees and scientific research into cannabis.
Governor Rena Lalgie said, “The Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs concluded that the Bill, as currently drafted, is not consistent with obligations held by the UK and Bermuda under the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs and the 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances.”
“I hope that Bermudian officials will work together with UK officials to find a way forward—one that does not result in life-changing criminal records for users of small amounts of cannabis and unlocks commercial opportunities, whilst maintaining Bermuda's excellent reputation for upholding the rule of law,” she added,
Bermuda Premier David Burt of the Progressive Labour Party didn't immediately react to the denial of assent, but he warned earlier this year that if UK stood in the way of this legislation, it would “destroy the relationship we had with the United Kingdom.”