Hamilton – Governor Rena Lalgie has urged the Bermuda government to work with Britain to find a compromise after announcing she was reserving her assent to controversial cannabis legislation, handing her and Prime Minister David Burt over an apparent collision course.
Burt did not immediately comment on the Governor’s decision on Thursday night on the Progressive Labor Party’s (PLP) flagship legislation, but he has previously said that while the decision to legalize the use and production of the drug in this British territory of overseas did not get royal assent it would ‘destroy’ Bermuda’s relationship with London.
The opposition One Bermuda Alliance (OBA), which has just six MPs in the 36-seat House of Assembly, said it was no surprise the governor reserved assent to the cannabis bill. .
The Governor said in her statement that she found the Cannabis Licensing Act 2022 “inconsistent” with what she considered to be obligations held by the UK and Bermuda under UN conventions.
“I therefore have no choice but to reserve assent to the Bill under Section 35(2) of the Constitution and advise the Commonwealth Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. and development.
“I hope the Bermudian authorities will work with the UK authorities to find a way forward – one that does not lead to life-changing criminal records for users of small amounts of cannabis and opens up business opportunities, while maintaining Bermuda’s stellar reputation for rule of the law.”
Reserving assent stops before refusing assent, and the Governor added that “the UK has supported and is currently assisting some of the Crown Dependencies and other Overseas Territories to develop a pathway in accordance with the relevant conventions”.
The Cannabis Licensing Act was passed by Parliament on March 30, but the more than a month’s delay in sending it to the governor for review was called “unusual” by Craig Cannonier, a former Premier of the OBA, who said they had heard behind the scenes negotiations with London were taking place on this subject.
A cabinet minister denied the allegation.
The OBA claimed that the PLP’s pro-cannabis liberalization movement was really a “smokescreen” for a push for independence.
After being defeated by the Senate last year, the bill returned to the House in February and passed by an 18-to-six vote – the six OBA lawmakers.
A dozen government MPs did not vote for the bill, even though some of them were overseas at the time.
The legislation was tied at 5-5 when it later returned to the Senate, but the Upper House no longer had the power to block it.
Shadow Interior and Legal Affairs Secretary Scott Pearman, weighing in on the governor’s decision, again questioned whether Burt, who is also finance minister, always wanted the bill to fail.
“Just over two weeks ago, the Opposition was asked to comment on the likelihood of the Prime Minister’s landmark cannabis bill becoming law.
“At that time we said this: ‘Given the UK’s obligations under international conventions, there must be a high probability that the Governor will not grant Royal Assent – so this bill probably won’t become law.”
“It should come as no real surprise to anyone that this bill has not yet received Royal Assent. And if he is ultimately successful, that shouldn’t come as a surprise to Premier Burt either,” he added. (CMC)