Top Cannabis Stories of 2022

What were some of the top cannabis stories of 2022? It was a big year for legalization efforts, but full-scale implementations are still needed. While Germany looked to legalize cannabis, it didn’t happen in 2022. Likewise, despite beliefs that Biden and the Democrats would legalize cannabis or, at the very least, pass some cannabis banking regulations, nothing came of it. Cannabis didn’t fare much better in Canada, where authorities launched a full-scale war on medical cannabis and legacy medical providers. […]

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United Kingdom Blocks Bermuda Territory from Legalizing Cannabis

The Royal Gazette stated that on Sept. 6, Bermuda Governor and Commander-in-Chief Rena Lalgie was “instructed” by United Kingdom Foreign Secretary to refuse to give royal assent to the Cannabis Licensing Bill. “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 have informed the Premier and relayed the UK’s continued desire to work with Bermuda on reforms within the scope of our existing international obligations,” Lalgie said.

According to the U.K. Parliament, royal assent is final approval for a bill to become law. “Once a bill has completed all the parliamentary stages in both Houses, it is ready to receive royal assent,” the U.K. parliament states.

This news occurred on the same day that Liz Truss became U.K. Prime Minister (PM), replacing former PM Boris Johnson.

Media reports that the denial of approval for Bermuda’s bill has caused tension in relations between the U.K. and Bermuda. Bermuda Attorney General Kathy Lynn Simmons explained that this won’t be the end for cannabis in the country. “Disappointing, but not surprising, given the confines of our constitutional relationship with the UK government and their archaic interpretation of the narcotic conventions,” 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. 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.”

The Bermuda House of Assembly approved the Cannabis Licensing Bill in March 2022, which then moved to Gov. Lalgie for royal assent. However, not all legislators were in support of the cannabis bill.

Bermuda has two political parties: the One Bermuda Alliance and the Progressive Labour Party (PLP). One Bermuda Alliance’s Shadow Home Affairs Minister, Scott Pearman describes the bill as “deeply flawed.” In April, he said that there was a “high likelihood” that Lalgie wouldn’t grant royal assent and the bill would not become law. Pearman explained that the bill was a flagship initiative of current Premier Edward Burt, who is also the leader of the PLP, and “almost half of his PLP MPs did not vote for the Bill.”

“It was deeply flawed—no matter what position you hold on the cannabis debate, this particular Bill was not for you. The Premier has been well aware of the U.K.’s treaty obligations throughout,” Pearman continued. “His own attorney-general pointed out the U.K.’s treaty obligations in parliament when the Bill was debated the first time in February 2021. The premier then stated publicly in November 2021 that he had no intention of tailoring his Bill to satisfy the U.K.’s conventions obligations. So, it was [PM Edward] David Burt’s choice to steam ahead as he did, rather than seek consensus and compromise. It should come as no surprise to anyone that royal assent has not been granted on this Bill. And it should certainly not surprise Premier Burt.”

Current Bermuda law states that no criminal offenses would be issued if a person carries seven grams of cannabis or less, as directed by The Misuse of Drugs (Decriminalization of Cannabis) Amendment Act of 2017. However, the act does not make it legal to “consume, cultivate, traffic or import cannabis in any quantity.”

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Cannabis Constitutional Crisis?

Has the UK sparked a constitutional crisis in Bermuda by blocking cannabis legalization? The tiny North Atlantic archipelago consists of 181 islands. They are a British overseas territory but has elections and makes its own laws. It is rare for the UK to intervene like this. What Happened? On Tuesday, as Liz Truss became the […]

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The Struggle for Cannabis Legalization in Bermuda

An interesting legal fight has now broken out in Bermuda as the island grapples with finding the best way forward on cannabis reform. 

As of last week, legislation intended to create the first guidelines for the local industry—the Cannabis Licensing Act, allowing both recreational use and creating a regulated framework for at least the import of cannabis—was reintroduced in the House of Assembly. It passed on Monday, March 28 with a vote of 18-6. Now it goes on to the House of Lords where it will probably be passed next week, because Senators can only veto legislation once.

For a second attempt through Parliament, the bill is not without its controversies, particularly it is under heat for being a “bad bill.” Indeed, the main criticism of the legislation is that not only is it exactly the same as the bill that tanked last year. Beyond that, an advocacy organization, the One Bermuda Alliance claimed the only people it benefits are those who control the importation of cannabis. 

Beyond this the usual criticisms are being levied at the initiative by those who want to kibosh cannabis reform.

In addition, there is another intransigent legal problem. Namely, the passage of any bill legalizing the recreational use of the drug will set up a constitutional clash with the UK. Bermuda is still a British colony and therefore subject to British laws. The only way to avoid this legal problem is for Bermuda to remove cannabis from the list of controlled substances. This has been in force on the island since the early 1970s.

Cannabis Reform in Bermuda

The Supreme Court of Bermuda ruled in favor of medical cannabis reform in November 2016. Cannabis was decriminalized in December 2017. That said, the practical implications—namely, that patients could only import one gram a year—predictably created conditions where patients turned to the black market. This limit was subsequently increased, but patients still had to cover the costs of the application to import their own cannabis. 

The Decriminalization of Cannabis Amendment Act which decriminalized the possession of up to seven grams of cannabis was implemented in December 2017.

Two years later the Bermudian government released a draft bill called the Medicinal Cannabis Bill. This statute was intended to create a Medicinal Cannabis Authority which would oversee the cultivation, importation, export, manufacturing, research, development, and transport of cannabis. Further a register of strains was to be created along with the issuance of ID cards and other regulations necessary for the implementation of a centrally administered cannabis oversight infrastructure. The bill was officially tabled in December 2020 in the Bermudian Parliamentary House. It subsequently passed in this body but then failed in the Senate by a single vote on March 3, 2021.

A Dire Need for Global Cannabis Reform

Bermuda is not the only country trying to figure out how to proceed, and further within the context of international regulations that govern cannabis. This must be accomplished at the UN, which so far has refused to remove cannabis from its Schedule I classification on an international basis.

The fact that this has not happened so far is a matter with geopolitical implications. The last time this came up for a vote, both the US and China refused to move forward on removing the Schedule I designation on a global level and left this up to both regional authorities and individual sovereign nations.

The problem this creates is that this situation is a catch-22. Those who object to legalization still want to quote current UN law to prevent change from moving forward.

This has not stopped legalization efforts from going forward—it has just slowed them down. Currently legalization efforts are underway at a federal level in the US, many countries in Europe, including Germany, and various countries in Africa.

For this reason, despite all the legal complexities, it is unlikely that Bermuda, with a strong tourist industry, will defer the conversation indefinitely, despite all the wrinkles and complexities that remain.

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