Audio: AG In Parliament On Cannabis Licensing

December 11, 2020

[Updated] Attorney-General & Minister of Legal Affairs Kathy Lynn Simmons delivered remarks in the House of Assembly today [Dec 11] on the “Tabling Of Cannabis Licensing Act 2020.” We will update with the full statement as able, and in the meantime the audio is below.

Update 4.20pm: The Minister’s full statement follows below:

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to table the Bill entitled “Cannabis Licensing Act 2020” in this Honourable House today. This comprehensive Bill establishes the Cannabis Licensing Authority to advise and assist the Minister responsible for drug prevention in the regulation of a cannabis industry in Bermuda. This Bill will usher in lawful regulation of all such activities involved—directly or ancillary—to the cultivation, import, export, production, sale, supply, use or transport of cannabis or medicinal cannabis or products derived from cannabis or medicinal cannabis in Bermuda.

Provisions in the Bill will permit lawful activities relating to the cannabis plant, medicinal cannabis, cannabis products and cannabis-infused food products. It also grants monitoring, inspection and enforcement powers to the regulator: The Cannabis Licensing Authority.

Mr. Speaker, the licence categories available within the Bill’s cannabis licensing system are—

  • a tier 1 cultivation licence, to allow for the growing, harvesting, drying, trimming or curing of cannabis for adult personal use;
  • a tier 2 cultivation licence, to allow for the growing, harvesting, drying, trimming, curing or packaging of cannabis or medicinal cannabis for commercial purposes;
  • a cannabis retail shop licence, to allow for the operation of a cannabis retail shop for the sale of cannabis or the sale and consumption of cannabis;
  • an import licence, to allow for the cannabis and medicinal cannabis planting material for cultivation from any country from which it is lawful to do so;
  • a tier 1 manufacturing licence, to allow for activities relating to the processing of edible cannabis; and
  • a tier 2 manufacturing licence, to allow for the manufacturing of cannabis products or medicinal cannabis products;
  • an export licence, to allow for the export of locally cultivated cannabis to a country in which it is lawful to do so;
  • a research licence, to allow for the conduct of scientific research relating to the development of medicinal cannabis; and
  • a transport licence, to allow for the transport of cannabis or medicinal cannabis in Bermuda.
  • a cannabis event licence, to allow for the sale and supply of cannabis at authorized private or public events, of an infrequent or temporary nature.

Mr. Speaker, the lawful activities associated with cannabis will also include personal adult-use and consumption of lawfully obtained cannabis plant material, medicinal cannabis, cannabis products and cannabis-infused food products for persons 21 years of age or older. It is expected that lawful access to cannabis will reduce the illicit trade in cannabis and the associated harms.

Mr. Speaker, examples of the safeguards built into the Bill and licensing system are such that the Minister may by order exclude harmful strains of cannabis from the licensing system [see: Clause 6]; and there is a statutory age limit of 21 for participation in the licensing system [see: Clause 20]. As persons under 21 are not permitted to consume or use cannabis under the Bill, it will therefore be an offence to supply or sell cannabis to a person under 21 years. Licencees will also have a duty to ensure that persons under 21 are not employed by retail shops, do not gain access to retail shops and that cannabis or cannabis products from retail shops are not procured for persons under 21. Applicable offences and penalties are included in the Bill with fines for non-compliance.

Mr. Speaker, the presented Bill is the culmination of a comprehensive social justice reform project to liberalize our cannabis laws in line with global contemporary thought, scientific evidence and overwhelming public support. This initiative originated under the previous Legislative Term, with Government renewing its promise for cannabis reform in the 2020 Speech from the Throne. The policy behind the Bill was informed by substantive public consultation throughout the policy development phases and included the presentation of an illustrative draft Bill. The final public consultation exercise closed on 3rd July 2020, with over five hundred [500] comments made by approximately one hundred and fifty [150] members of the public, stakeholders and affected entities.

Mr. Speaker, on 2nd December 2020, The UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs decided by 27 votes to 25 [with one abstention] to delete cannabis and cannabis resin from Schedule IV of the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs—the listing of the most harmful psychotropic drugs. The UK Government voted in favour of this proposition.

Mr. Speaker, this change by the United Nations oversight bodies finally removes some of the structural hurdles for emerging cannabis industries in jurisdictions near and far. It effectively allows for greater national competence for signatories to enact legislation allowing greater medical and scientific uses of cannabis without falling afoul of the various international narcotics conventions.

Mr. Speaker, the Government is aware that this Bill placed before the House proposes to permit lawful uses of cannabis for personal adult-use, and by doing so it prescribes uses beyond “medical and scientific use” as sanctioned by the United Nations oversight bodies. However, the Government is pursuing all diplomatic and legal options to deliver on its promise to our People. We can be assured that the Bermuda Government is following in the wake of Canada and other jurisdictions who, by enacting domestic laws permitting personal adult-use of cannabis, are in “respectful non-compliance” with the international narcotics conventions without sanction.

Mr. Speaker, I am confident that the proposed Bill is timely, and is sufficiently comprehensive to garner cross-aisle support. Overall, the Bill accomplishes an agile regulatory framework for cannabis in Bermuda that can grow in line with the evolutionary needs of local industry and can be further adapted as cannabis regulatory models emerge globally.

Mr. Speaker and Members, I look forward to debating the provisions of the Bill, and the benefits the proposed new law will provide, as the Bill advances through the legislative process.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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Comments (2)

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  1. Will says:

    Governor of BVI refused royal assent the other day regarding their cannabis bills I wonder if the same will happen here. It would be a shame if she does refuse

    • sage says:

      Reading the BVI proposal I have to say our version is a lot better, a lot closer to what needs to happen, the levels of oversight, regulation and punishments BVI is suggesting isn’t much better than complete prohibition and would create an invasive dictatorial regime not seen for far more harmful substances. Ours is still bad in regards to ending punitive measures, police involvement, too much power for the minister and the Authority, dictating what strains are ok etc. etc. That said the new ‘govo’ will most likely have to refuse assent for sure if they refused that reefer madness legislation BVI has come up with. Not good.