Recently, the Cannabis Licensing and Regulation Act has passed through the House of Assembly. It does not have to be approved by the Senate again and instead will head straight to the Governor for the Royal Assent.
In my humble opinion, despite being touted as a highly supported bill, I have observed a very lukewarm reception to its passage. Those with a special interest have been vocal but it hasn’t inspired widespread elation. There is a sizable number of Bermudians who use cannabis in one way or another. It remains to be seen whether that same community will support regulated cannabis and pay the increased cost to obtain it. The optimist in me hopes for job creation for Bermudians and the success of our entrepreneurs, but I remain concerned.
One of my biggest concerns is the implications of intentionally passing a bill that sets us on a collision course with the UK, especially when lawyers have come forward with loopholes to avoid conflict. This demonstrates that this is an intentional move by the Premier and the people of Bermuda need to ask themselves why?
Has the Premier got people’s hopes up about possible economic opportunities with no intention of getting the bill passed into law? Does he have the political will to properly foster this economic framework for the cannabis industry to take off? It doesn’t seem like strong support from his own MPs as 11 decided to abstain, so how committed will the PLP be to truly supporting this industry?
I understand the optimism of those who are hoping to engage in this industry. However, there is still a huge amount of red tape stemming from the formation of a separate regulating body, the Cannabis Licensing Authority, which is riddled with fineable offenses, and stringent requirements to obtain an operating license. The legislation does not invoke confidence in the growth of an equitable industry. It fosters the environment for monopolies and very little carve outs for smaller operations. Many say this legislation is a start or a step in the right direction, but will we get a finish?
We have seen this Premier and by extension his cabinet make decisions solely based on political agenda, even against the better judgement of experts, two of which have resigned recently. We have confirmation repeatedly that our Premier is willing to intentionally mislead the public. How can we trust in his commitment to this bill is legitimate and not a way to weaponize anti-colonial sentiment by staging a confrontation with the Governor, in order to set up another future election victory?
I am sure some of you will retort: “Well the OBA….”.
The OBA isn’t perfect and there were mistakes made. The electorate gave us the boot and we have spent years since then atoning for our mistakes. However, this electorate has yet to send a message to the PLP despite their rampant blunders, sleight of hand tactics, and overall failure to deliver substantive change for the people of Bermuda.
Their excuse for 15 years was the global recession and now it’s a global pandemic. Yet other islands have improved their tourism product, financial position, and seen positive economic growth. Why haven’t we?
This passage of this legislation may land us in a political climate where our relationship with the UK could become strained. I encourage Bermudians to engage in discussions concerning independence and our relationship with the UK, as this discourse is valuable. However, be aware of the politics at play here. These national conversations, if brought about, should be facilitated out of genuine intention to improve Bermuda, not for political capital.
I urge those who advocated for this bill to pass, to hold this Government accountable. Be sure that they provide an even playing ground for ALL to benefit in this new industry, not just a select few. Continue to advocate for improvements to the possible regulation framework and make sure the Premier delivers what his government promised regarding a fruitful cannabis industry. To those who opposed the legislation continue to advocate for the protection of our community’s health. Keep the pressure on Government to provide proper education on cannabis and rehabilitation for those who may require it. The ball is in your court Mr. Premier and your actions going forward regarding this industry and legislation will reveal your true intentions. I hope you put Bermudians first.