It’s official: the United Kingdom has prevented Bermuda from legalizing cannabis for adults.
The road to this point began more than a year and a half ago, when Bermuda’s House passed the Cannabis Licensing Bill. Ahead of a vote in the Senate, debate arose around whether the UK would ultimately allow Bermuda, a British overseas territory, to enact the bill.
“It can’t be that locally elected governments lay out their election manifestos, go to the polls, have broad public support, have the majority of the population supporting the direction of the country, and for someone who represents people 3,000 miles away to tell the country, ‘no, you cannot,’” said Premier David Burt in February 2021, as Cannabis Wire reported.
But that is exactly what has happened, after several twists and turns. One month after Burt’s statement, the bill fell short by one vote in the Senate, as Cannabis Wire reported. It was reintroduced this March, passed swiftly in the House, and guaranteed passage in the Senate because the chamber is not allowed to block legislation twice in a row.
In May, however, UK-appointed Governor Rena Lalgie announced that she had “no choice but to reserve Assent of the Bill.” Her concerns focused on the international drug control treaties on which Bermuda and the UK are signatories. These treaties only provide limited leeway to countries when it comes to cannabis for therapeutic purposes. (Back in 2021, however, Burt pointed out that countries like Canada, which are also signatories, have moved ahead with legal adult use.)
Lalgie continued that she hoped for a solution: “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.”
This week, however, it became clear that the path forward is a dead end.
“I have now received an instruction, issued to me on Her Majesty’s behalf, not to Assent to the Bill as drafted,” Lalgie announced.
Shortly thereafter, however, Bermuda Attorney General Kathy Lynn Simmons expressed a desire to move ahead.
“Disappointing but not surprising, given the confines of our constitutional relationship with the UK Government and their archaic interpretation of the Narcotic Conventions,” she announced.
“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,” she continued.