Back to the drawing board for the government?

  • All Independent Senators Say No
  • No voters say too many flaws in the bill
  • Bill goes back to the House of Assembly
How They Voted
  • Joan Dillas-Wright, Senate president: No
  • Michelle Simmons, Senate vice-president: No
  • John Wight, independent senator: No
  • Ernest Peets, Government senate leader: Yes
  • Owen Darrell, Government senator: Yes
  • Arianna Hodgson, Government senator: Yes
  • Curtis Richardson, Government senator: Yes
  • Lindsay Simmons, Government senator: Yes
  • Ben Smith, Opposition senate leader: No
  • Marcus Jones, Opposition senator: No
  • Robin Tucker, Opposition senator: No

 

The Royal Gazette reports

A controversial law to legalise cannabis will be sent back to the House of Assembly after Senators voted against the bill yesterday afternoon.

The Cannabis Licensing Act, which sets out a regulatory framework for growing, selling, and using the drug, was passed by MPs two weeks ago.

But senators rejected the legislation by six votes to five in the Upper House, handing a major defeat to the Progressive Labour Party just months after it was re-elected in October with an historic 24-seat majority.

 

Read more at story

Woefully inadequate’ drug prevention programmes lead to rejection of cannabis law

 

All three independent senators and three One Bermuda Alliance senators voted the bill down – giving the ‘nays’ the majority against five Government senators’ “ayes”.

Today, Kathy Lynn Simmons, the Attorney-General, who tabled the Bill in the House of Assembly two weeks ago, criticised senators who had voted against it.

She said Government will press forward with the Bill despite the setback, and said the naysayers had gone against the wishes of the country.

She said: “Yesterday the Cannabis Licensing Bill 2021, which was developed after the most extensive public consultation exercise in recent memory, was defeated in the Senate after being approved by the people’s elected representatives in the House of Assembly.

“Public support for this progressive initiative cannot be ignored, notwithstanding the rejection of the Bill by the Opposition senators and the senators appointed by the Governor.

“The Government will not be deterred from taking the bold steps necessary to ensure economic opportunity for marginalised groups, appropriate safeguards, and effective prevention education associated with the proposed regulated cannabis licensing regime.

“What this Government will not do is to allow the status quo, which does not reflect the people’s wishes, to remain – we will continue to press on.”

The Progressive Labour Party last night also condemned the OBA and the Independent senators, alleging they had “voted against the will of the Bermudian voter and stood against jobs and opportunities for Bermudians”.

The PLP also questioned the island’s democratic process, claiming that Government plans had been stymied by unelected officials “appointed by an unelected, unaccountable Governor”.

“The cannabis reform they opposed would have further reduced the criminalisation of Bermudians and created jobs and opportunities for Bermudians,” the party said in a statement.

“Now, Bermudians are forced to wait for entrepreneurial opportunities in agriculture, transport, research, manufacturing, and the creation of health products and consumables.

The Cannabis Reform Bill rejected by the OBA and the Governor’s senators would have meant additional revenue for the Government – revenue for social programmes, scholarships, and more.

“It is unfortunate that in the 21st Century that jobs and opportunities as well as the will of so many Bermudians can be blocked by a politically rejected Opposition and Independent senators appointed by an unelected, unaccountable Governor.”

The OBA hit back, saying that the “deeply flawed” bill was rightly rejected because it “failed to address important concerns from the community“.

A joint statement issued by all three OBA senators said: “Cannabis is a complicated issue that requires thoughtful solutions, something the bill severely lacked.

“There are many who are passionate about cannabis, both for and against. But the bill in its current form was not the answer. It left too many unanswered questions and needs more time and thought.

“The Senate vote shows there are many Bermudian voices not being heard by the Government. Even within the PLP ranks there are many who recognised privately the numerous flaws in this bill. They must share these legitimate concerns publicly and put island before party.”

PLP backbenchers were given a free vote in the House of Assembly after a number expressed opposition to the bill. But no roll call vote was taken in the House.

The bill will now be sent back to the House of Assembly. If it is unchanged, it must be approved by the Senate in 12 months’ time.

If the bill is amended by the House in any way, Senators would be able to reject it again.

The vote means a potential confrontation with Governor Rena Lalgie has been at least temporarily averted. Ms Lalgie had signalled she would not be able to sign the legislation because it would breach the United Kingdom’s drug interdiction treaty obligations.

Read more at. https://www.royalgazette.com/politics/news/article/20210303/government-suffers-cannabis-law-defeat/