PLP Table Marijuana Decriminalization Bill

February 17, 2014

On Friday [Feb 14] the Opposition tabled a bill in the House of Assembly which calls for removing all criminal sanctions for the possession of 14 grams of cannabis or cannabis resin.

In a post on social media, Opposition MP David Burt said, “I would like to congratulate the OBA for something that happened on Friday. In November when the PLP attempted to introduce a bill to abolish conscription, the OBA blocked it and prevented it from evening being introduced so that it could be debated in the future.

“I was very critical of this action as I thought it was an affront to democracy as we should at least be allowed to debate the issues. I don’t think any democracy should shut down an issue and not even allow it to be debated.

“Fast forward to this past Friday – the PLP introduced the Decriminalisation of Cannabis Act, which would remove criminal penalties for possession of under 14 grams. After initially lodging an objection, the OBA withdrew their objection and allowed the bill to be introduced.

“Now that does not mean the OBA will support the bill in the future, they may very well invoke a 3 line whip and force their members vote it down when it comes up for debate in 2 weeks; but at least they allowed for the bill to be introduced so that we can have that debate. They deserve the credit for that and I hope they will keep it up as our democracy can only get better if members know that if they do the work they will at least get a debate on their issue.

“A lot of people complain about politics in Bermuda, and I must admit at times it is a bit messy, but if we do work together we can make progress. I am looking forward to that debate in 2 weeks, and I’m hopeful that the OBA may surprise me again and not just reflexively reject this important bill because it came from the PLP. If both sides could have a conscience vote – that would be excellent,” added Mr. Burt.

Speaking in response to the Bill, Attorney General Mark Pettingill said, “I knew that the decriminalization of marijuana was going to go forward, so we can have a debate on it. That particular Bill has been very badly thought out, it doesn’t appear to me that that the Shadow Attorney General, I don’t think played any part in it, I don’t know.

“You just can’t come swashbuckling in with that type of Bill with all of the considerations that we have to have. I met with the U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, and we discussed it with regard to that, we have to be in sync with what other jurisdictions are doing.

“You can’t just say on we will decriminalize marijuana to 20 grams, why 20 grams? Why not deeming provision of personal use, why not 16, or why not an ounce?,” continued Mr. Pettingill.

“Where are you going to get it from? Are you going to go down to your local drug dealer and say ‘here you go’ and now suddenly I’m in legal possession but he can still sell it to me? Whose going to import it? Whose going to grow it? All these types of things. What’s the quality of the drug?

“It has to be thought through so carefully, and jurisdictions like the States and so on have done that. This is just a knee-jerk reaction by, clearly people that want to get out and say we want to smoke marijuana. Which I don’t have an issue with, but we just have to do it very carefully, very pedantically, and look at it very sensibly. And that’s not a sensible Bill.

“But I think it’s one…we’re going to bring it forward. I think it’s a chance to highlight what the issues are. So I’m kind of glad the Opposition brought it forward, that’s why I let it go ahead. But it’s rife with difficulty, rife with problems that would not be allowed to go forward,” concluded Mr. Pettingill.

AG Mark Pettingill responds to the Bill:

The PLP’s Decriminalization of Cannabis Bill 2014 follows below [PDF here]

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  1. Chronicle AM--February 17, 2014 - 420 News Wire | February 18, 2014
  1. Paradise Reclaimed says:

    Already decriminalized in practice. Do not officially decriminalize, legalize!

    Decriminalization does not make sense. How can it be legal to carry something that is illegal to buy or sell.

    Take the power away from organized crime. Legalize.

    You cannot control or regulate anything that is prohibited.

    • ganja mon says:

      The PLP are a bunch of idiots !!! After 14 years they NOW want to start making head way with passing bills? Me thinks they just want to take credit for it knowing who ever passes this will forever gain the under 30s vote.

      I do realize this is the new face for the PLP with Marc Bean and Burt. Cox, DREB and the old PLPers would never have passed marijuana as all they worried about the lining in their pockets!

      • Dark Side of the Moon says:

        Totally agree with you. The OBA have been the ones talking about this for the last few weeks, not the PLP. Aren’t they kinda jumping the gun here? Trying their hardest to make Brownie Points. They had years to do this but never did, so why now? Hope these Plp voters can see that this new PLP bunch aren’t really doing this country any good.

    • Portia says:

      Legalizing the drug will NOT take power away from the gangs and organized crime – it will only fuel it. This is exactly what Colorado is battling now, because the price of the black market weed is much cheaper than the legal weed. To make weed legal to sell, it has to be licensed. People will not leave their “regular” supplier to walk into a store and pay twice as much. Thus, the street dealers still ensure their cash flow continues.

      • GTA says:

        Incorrect in assuming everyone would prefer to deal with illegal drug dealers over legal weed in a store just based on a price difference, especially if the quality and variety will be much greater on the legal end. You can purchase a plethora of items on the black market for cheaper prices, but it comes with less variety and lower quality items, with possibility of jail time. I would say most people would prefer the legal route and pay the higher market prices, just saying.

      • Chingas says:

        @Portia, I completely agree. One other element is the reticence of some to put their name on a register. Uruguay addressed the issue of price by legislating the selling price and made sure that it was lower than what the cartels could offer so as to drive them out of the country.

      • Dominque says:

        Maybe in the short term but just look at liquor. Are people still going to underground/illegal places to buy liquor or from legal established retailers?

      • Betty Dump says:

        Portia… I can buy bootleg rum for half the price of Goslings… but I pay the higher amount because… drum roll… its safer… regulated… I know what I am getting.

      • sage says:

        Over regulation, and 75% tax has ensured problems will occur but greed and paranoia are the root, not the herb. Hence the need to get it right, at least the Coloradans have the guts to do something even though it may take time to get right. Washington has set it’s tax rate at 10%, but doesn’t allow home grown, so no one’s got it right yet. We could, with open minds design a model that could be trendsetting, and be adopted elsewhere, dealing with the issue in a sensible manner, or we could just do the same thing we have been doing over and over, and expect a different result.

      • Dark Side of the Moon says:

        Good, price needs to come down!

      • Paradise Reclaimed says:

        Portia – Have you not seen the effects of 40 years fighting the war on drugs and how it has fueled organized crime in Bermuda?

        Please have a look at Portugal, they decriminalized all drugs 10 years ago. Marijuana use among 13 to 15-year-olds is down 25%!

        Again I ask, How can you possibly control or regulate anything that is prohibited?

        Just as the Women of Temperance yelled at the tops of their lungs in the 1930′s – Save our children, end prohibition.”

  2. sage says:

    I have to agree with the AG on this, decriminalization for small amounts makes no sense since it doesn’t address, among others, the points the AG mentioned or the fact that herb is a far safer alternative to cigarettes and alcohol that have no such limitations. Legalize it.

    • Pay Attention says:

      Seeing that the OBA doesn’t support legalisation, you may be arguing against yourself.

      • sage says:

        The man said he’d met with Eric Holder and discussed moving in line with changes in the US, Holder just cleared the way for banks to deal with all the money legalized herb has generated, if that’s the OBA’s official position, they should stop living in the past and try keeping up with the developments, by the way they are there to serve us, so when the majority call for legalization (like in the US) they would be well advised to listen.

  3. CBA says:

    As Pettingill said, this Bill is so badly thought out. If we want to decriminalize marijuana, it needs to be thought out. We first need to establish who can sell, etc.

    This is, yet again, another PLP Bill that has been introduced after the OBA came up with the idea. The PLP are trying to make it seem like their idea now, and are rushing it through and making even more mistakes.

    • Mr. JIF says:

      It does not take much effort to put down the actions of the opposition.
      Every time they do I only ask:

      What is the Government willing to do?

    • sage says:

      Fill us in on the “need to establish who can sell” rules we enacted, in the case of cancer sticks, keeping in mind they are 3-4 times more addictive than herb, kill half of their addicted users and they serve no beneficial purpose. Should regulations for herb, which is by far the safer alternative, with medical and industrial uses, be stricter than for tobacco, just because it’s hard for some people to let go of the anti herb hysteria and ganjaphobia?

      • Suzie Quattro says:

        I thought we were told that marijuana isn’t addictive at all? Now you’re telling us that it is addictive?
        Just want to get the story straight for when it can be openly sold to my kids.

        • sage says:

          You know what thought did?

        • Sara says:

          Marijuana can be mentally addictive, it is not physically addictive like nicotine. How is that research going?

          • Suzie Quattro says:

            So it is addictive then. Got it.

            • Sara says:

              It CAN be mentally addictive. Suzie, I have stated this all along and specifically to you so why are you acting like its the first time you have hear this?

            • Sara says:

              Suzie, do you know of anyone that drinks alcohol and isn’t addicted? Alcohol can be mentally and physically addictive and as we see abundantly in Bermuda it can be a horrible problem. Marijuana can be mentally addictive in some users but is far less harmful than legal alcohol.

              • Sandy Bottom says:

                I know plenty of people who drink alcohol who are not addicted.

                Glad to see the admission that cannabis is addictive. That’s progress.

                • sage says:

                  Are you an expert at concluding someone’s not an addict by simply knowing them? Denial is the hallmark of addiction. http://www.aa.bm. And you are glad to see the admission? Who ever denied cannabis is addictive to a single digit percentage of people at a far lower rate than even your legal drugs? I’m just glad I set you straight when you were spreading your BS about herb giving Bob Marley cancer. Thankfully we will be able to use your posts at the Museum of the War on Drugs to show the future generations just how ignorant the prohibitionists were so they will respect the struggle.Maybe we can have you mounted (after unwisely refusing to try cannabis) and displayed in a glass case with a couple of your more ridiculous assertions on a plaque.

                • Sara says:

                  Great, then you understand that the less than 10% of marijuana users that can become mentally addicted to marijuana is no justification for keeping it illegal.

                • Come Correct says:

                  Cheese burgers can be addictive in the same sense.

                  • Sara says:

                    Exactly, so can caffeine, sugar, video gaming, watching tv, and gambling. All of these can be addictive but yet they are all legal.

          • Portia says:

            That is completely false. According to the U.S. National Institute for Drug Abuse, it IS physically addictive:

            “It is estimated that 9 percent of people who use marijuana will become dependent on it.10 The number goes up to about 1 in 6 in those who start using young (in their teens) and to 25-50 percent among daily users.

            Marijuana addiction is also linked to a withdrawal syndrome similar to that of nicotine withdrawal, which can make it hard to quit. People trying to quit report irritability, sleeping difficulties, craving, and anxiety. They also show increased aggression on psychological tests, peaking approximately 1 week after they last used the drug.”

            • Sara says:

              This is all mental addiction. It is not physically addictive.

              • Dark Side of the Moon says:

                Sara, you don’t know what you’re talking about. Weed, herb, spliffs, are addictive, mentally and Physically, the difference is that you will not go kill or steal from someone to get it, like the addiction to Heroin or Coke can create. You go find someone who has smoked for three to four years and ask them to stop and see what happens, they can’t sleep, or eat, that’s physical, and they can’t go through a day without being miserable, that’s mental. It’s addictive, you better believe it.

                • Really? says:

                  As a former smoker myself, I call your claims bogus and misleading. I made the decision to quit smoking weed years ago, with none of the physical or mental effects that you describe. Got up one day, decided that I had better things to do with the money that I was spending, and that was the end of that, no cravings, no loss of sleep, ate just fine, etc, etc.

                  Coming up on two years ago, I made the same decision about smoking cigarettes, well, let me tell you about physical and mental addiction… I remember having dreams about smoking cigarettes, waking up sucking on my pillow looking for that relief from the cravings. It was over three months before I even began to see any relief from the awful cravings that I experienced. Even now, just shy of two years from quitting, I every so often have an impulse to strike one up every so often, though not nearly as often as previously. Ironically, when I was smoking weed, I did not crave or desire cigarettes as much. I was normally a pack a day smoker, however, on a trip to Amsterdam, I had one pack last me the entire trip of about a week, while only smoking maybe three joints a day. Please enlighten us all as to where you come by your “facts”.

                • Sara says:

                  Science says differently. Physical and kenatal addiction are different and that is why they are not called the same. Look it up please.

                • Come Correct says:

                  I smoked for 12 years, I quit. I sleep and avoid irritability by exercising daily, sometimes twice a day.

            • sage says:

              Compare these numbers to legal drugs to put it in context. Cannabis “withdrawal” is nowhere near comparable to nicotine which is commonly known to be as hard to kick as heroin, but still allowed in “treatment” situations like Dr. Drew’s place among others. Alcoholics can die if forced to go cold turkey, so those stats don’t justify prohibition of herb in the slightest.

            • Betty Dump says:

              I am a marijuana addict. My life is great! I wake up early everyday and exercise, make fruit smoothies and healthy breakfast & lunch for my family. I head to my technical job where I also assist people all day. When I knock off I go home and help my kids with their homework, have a little healthy family recreation and then we eat together as a family. Once my kids are in their beds sleeping… I pull out a fat joint, watch a little telly, and then go sleep and do it all again the next day. I have been doing this for 15 years. So if that’s what being a weed addict is… then sign me up! Compare that to being a cigarette addict… I see em… so addicted to their product that they will go in the pouring rain just to get that nicotine fix. C’mon Portia… put down the booze and have a draw… it’s quite nice!

        • Sara says:

          As with cigarettes, marijuana will be illegal to openly sell to your children. Next…

        • pabear says:

          what’s stopping your kids from being sold CANNABIS now

  4. No Half Measures says:

    Marijuana should either be fully legal or fully illegal. Decriminalizing will just give more power to gangs. Bring it into the fold so that criminals can no longer profit from it.

    No half measures.

    • sage says:

      Since it already is “fully illegal” and this folly has been declared a complete failure in every sense of the word, there is only one sensible option.

  5. Devonshire Devils Advocate says:

    This is such a bad idea…

  6. BabylonCowboys says:

    The opposition cannot advance money bills and since legalization involves taxation the PLP can’t bring that type of amendment. The opposition can only offer decriminalization until the government frees up d herb.

    • Al says:

      They could advocate for it without tabling a bill. The fact that they have gone straight to legislation shows it is just an attempt to one-up the OBA for show.

      We need to make real reform and we need to do it right!

      • Pay Attention says:

        Or maybe they are tired of the OBA talking and this may actually make progress.

        IN case you didn’t realise – a lot of conservative PLP people lost their seats in the last election. If the old bunch was in (Cox, Burch, Minors, Perinchief) I’m sure this would not come from the PLP.

        • Just Wondering says:

          If they were tired of talking and wanted to make progress they would have tabled a clear and proper bill. Instead they bring this which is a far cry from what is needed and will force the OBA to knock it down which will make the OBA look like the bad guys in this.

  7. San George says:

    Do we really need to be high? Then you wake-up with another problem(s)?

    • Sara says:

      With all due respect, I think this conversation is beyond your comprehension if you are asking questions like this. Do some research on the rest of the world then get back to us.

  8. Unbelievebale says:

    I find it funny how all of a sudden the PLP want to decriminalise when they had 14 years to do it and didn’t.

  9. Bermuda Boy says:

    PLP / BIU will you please go away. You are not an opposition party, you are trouble makers. Go home and get high.

  10. Triangle Drifter says:

    There so many other places which have already ‘been there & done that’. Surely legislation for Bermuda cannot that difficult to draw up.

    • Sara says:

      That is what is so funny about this whole marijuana gig is that so many other countries and states have done this with no problem. The government acts as if they have no clue what the rest of the world has been doing over the years. My suggestion to all politicians would be to go to yahoo news and read the daily articles on legalization located under the health section in yahoo news. Almost daily their is an informative article about legalization or decriminalization.

  11. more than enough says:

    the way that politicians carry on, i don’t think they should have any say about the use of herb. the only thing they can do is remove this sacred, medicinal plant from the law books. or, rearrange the laws to protect and promote the study and multiple uses of this quintessential plant, for recreation, medicine , industrial etc..without limitation. totally disregarding all anti-ganja propagandists in order to facilitate the erosion of the lie that herb is a bad thing. and to eliminate the illusion that politicians can figure out a way to regulate’ or tax it fairly.

  12. Drugs says:

    Do not legalize it if you do the drug smugglers are goin to be importing harder drugs as in cocane n herain

    • Sara says:

      Where are you getting this? What proof do you have of this? Only a demand for more harder drugs will cause that. Why would demand for harder drugs go up if marijuana is legal? What are you basing this on?

      • Terry says:

        MONEY…………………………..

        • Sara says:

          People have to WANT the drugs if they are to be imported. So again where are you getting that DEMAND for the harder drugs will go up due to legalization? Stay focused here. What are you basing this on? Bermuda has trouble understanding basic supply and demand principles. That is why all of our retail and tourism is in the shi..er.

  13. Sick B says:

    Agree. Don’t legalize.

    • sage says:

      Sick in the head, you endorse imprisoning people for growing or possessing a plant? Seek help.

  14. Betty Dump says:

    I agree with the AG that it needs to be implemented properly, but I feel full legalization is the only way forward. However, the details need to be worked out properly… which, in actual fact, is not too difficult as the amount of research available is more than abundant. However, I that while we work out the specifics for full legalization in Bermuda, decriminalize it. Stop making criminals of generally law abiding citizens. Stop ruining peoples’ lives because they choose marijuana.

    • Portia says:

      It seems to me they are choosing to ruin their own lives, when they decide to do something that they know is against the law and is going to get them not only in jail here, but also on the U.S. stop list.

      • Betty Dump says:

        That argument just doesn’t hold water. Slavery, segregation, and Apartheid were also law, but that changed. As society progresses, laws change… it’s that simple. We are at a time where world attitudes have changed toward marijuana… that is why it is completely legal in the US states of Colorado and Washington. Most pot users are regular law abiding citizens, but because of antiquated laws that were introduced purely for racist reasons, are currently considered criminals. Criminals just like Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Jr., and Rosa Parks…

  15. Real Talk (original) says:

    “Where are you going to get it from? Are you going to go down to your local drug dealer and say ‘here you go’ and now suddenly I’m in legal possession but he can still sell it to me? Whose going to import it? Whose going to grow it? All these types of things. What’s the quality of the drug?”

    Sounds like the AG is confusing Decriminalization and Legalization.

    • sage says:

      No, he is coming to the realization that decriminalization for small amounts is a ridiculous,ill conceived and hypocritical concept which can’t stand up to intelligent scrutiny. More like clearing confusion, as a lawyer I’m guessing he knows the difference, it’s you who ain’t sure.

  16. Pettingil Can't Read says:

    Why is Pettingil commenting on a bill that he hasn’t even read. It says 14 grams, why is he coming up with 20 grams.

    come on politicians, at least read before you talk

    • Just Wondering says:

      Because the last time they brought the bill up it was 20 grams, so perhaps he didn’t notice the small change but if thats is all that changed then he is still very right about it needs more work.

    • Sandy Bottom says:

      It’s the PLP that changed from 20 to 14 grams. No idea why. Looks like they got it wrong first time, maybe? Maybe it was a typo? Maybe they changed their mind in the past three weeks?
      You’d think they would think a bit more carefully before tabling a bill.

  17. claudio says:

    What people should be asking “Has making marijuana illegal had a positive effect on society?”

    Why was it illegal in the first place? Do people actually know the real reason why the US outlawed marijuana?

    • Sara says:

      Smartest post ever on this topic. Anyone commenting on this board that can’t answer these questions needs to leave the conversation and go do some research then come back to the topic so you can be in reality.

  18. Let me get this right – with all of the troubles in Bermuda – people out of work, banks taking peoples homes and less people in Bermuda our Opposition party (yes “party) have spent time and money to bring a such a bill to pass??? Rather than bringing ideas to the table to better Bermuda and it’s people they spend their efforts on this.
    Please for the betterment of Bda can someone talk some sense to the PLP!!!!

    • Betty Dump says:

      Soooo… the police and customs having the ability to redirect their resources from petty marijuana cases, to serious crime is not doesn’t make Bermuda better? The ability to reduce gang funding through controlled marijuana distribution is a waste of time? Having regular law abiding citizens not being made criminals isn’t a priority? Unfortunately, many people have been fed false propaganda for so many decades, they actually believe it. Yes, Bermuda has some serious issues to deal with. Many are more important than marijuana laws, I will readily admit. However, this too is a very important issue that needs to be resolved.

  19. more than enough says:

    weren’t they saying 20 grams at first?
    i think if there was to be any change in the amount it should’ve been adjusted to a bigger amount not a smaller amount.
    as you would have to injest over 1500 lbs for it to have any detrimental effect, it will be hard to define a safe amount being any less than this.
    after all i can legally purchase enough alcohol to kill my entire parish.
    decriminalization is a term used only in reference to herb. it will only enable the failed drug war to continue, with certain parties(the same ones that are involved now) being the only ones benefiting from it. can any one tell me if anything else has ever been decriminalized?

  20. foolishness says:

    Many people assume that marijuana was made illegal through some kind of process involving scientific, medical, and government hearings; that it was to protect the citizens from what was determined to be a dangerous drug.

    The actual story shows a much different picture. Those who voted on the legal fate of this plant never had the facts, but were dependent on information supplied by those who had a specific agenda to deceive lawmakers. You’ll see below that the very first federal vote to prohibit marijuana was based entirely on a documented lie on the floor of the Senate.

    You’ll also see that the history of marijuana’s criminalization is filled with:

    Racism
    Fear
    Protection of Corporate Profits
    Yellow Journalism
    Ignorant, Incompetent, and/or Corrupt Legislators
    Personal Career Advancement and Greed
    These are the actual reasons marijuana is illegal.

  21. Gotham says:

    This sudden burst of PLP activity these past few days suggests somebody is becoming very uncomfortable. I think once the real story breaks, and especially once the international press runs with it because it is together big, these guys know deep down inside that it’s Sayonara. Better to try and create chaos and anarchy now than face up to the rule of law is the Old Man’s strategy.

  22. Keepin' it Real...4Real! says:

    You people make me tired…all your distaste and fear of Cannabis, blah blah blah blah bla! the people that make the laws don’t give two fox about your health or well being…GEEESH…IT WILL BE FULLY LEGALIZED AS SOON AS THE CORPORATE REGIME FINALIZES THE INFRASTRUCTURE TO COLLECT EVERY DOLLAR POSSIBLE FROM THIS MULTI-BILLION DOLLAR TEXTILE…sorry but reg. citizens not included. Bermudians in a Bubble…tsk tsk.

    • Really? says:

      I totally agree with you. Something tells me that we will not see legalization until those in power have set in place the proper infrastructure to ensure that it is only their own who benefit. One possible way of doing that would be to allow dispensaries based on the California model or coffee shops as in Amsterdam, but set the licensing fee out of reach of the average person who would be interested in running such a spot. On the surface, they would appear to be giving the people what we want, but deeper down, they would still be maintaining the divide between the “haves” and the “have nots”.

  23. Keepin' it Real...4Real! says:

    Forget the Govt…WE The PEOPLE Speak.
    Like for Legalize>>>Dislike for NO.
    im jus curious…

  24. Looking in says:

    DECRIMINALIZE IT!

  25. Think says:

    Give a date or advance notice.
    Current dealers must be given enough time to off load the current stock they have at decent price.

    we dont want to create finacel problems