A bill decriminalizing small amounts of cannabis in Bermuda has been tabled for discussion in the House of Assembly. Under the new bill – called the Misuse of Drugs Amendment Act, which was authored and formally proposed by Social Development and Sport Minister Zane DeSilva – criminal sanctions for the possession of less than 7 grams of cannabis will be removed.
In May this year, a similar bill had also been debated then approved by the House of Assembly. However, legislation never made it to the Senate due to the timing of the general election.
Just like the current bill, the old bill aimed to decriminalize less than 7 grams of cannabis, but the current one includes a specific provision that the Director of Public Prosecutions could still proceed with charges in case there is evidence that the offender intends to use cannabis for supply. The new legislation, however, does not specify a commencement date.
Moreover, the Misuse of Drugs Amendment Act has an added provision that empowers police authorities to seize any amount of cannabis from any person caught in possession of the substance. It also provides for drug treatment and drug education for people found in possession of cannabis.
Bermuda’s current cannabis policy
In Bermuda, cannabis and any cannabis-related paraphernalia and activity — including smoking, selling, importation, and cultivation — are illegal. The law also imposes very strict penalties and fines for offenders, especially for the locals.
Authorities in Bermuda are strict when it comes to implementing cannabis laws and all drug-related activities are severely punished. This is because it is a part of their campaign to protect the British island territory’s image as a tourist hot-spot. Bermuda is a popular tourist destination, being only two hours by plane from the U.S. east coast. In fact, tourism is its second major income source next to international re-insurance.
Bermuda locals who are caught carrying cannabis will have to pay heavy fines – usually more than $500 – and could be put on a “stop-list,” where they are prohibited from leaving the island. Meanwhile, tourists who are caught in possession of even a very small quantity of cannabis will face the risk of deportation and of paying similar fines.
Judge calls for better guidelines in sentencing drug-related cases
Just recently, Judge Carlisle Greaves called for better sentencing guidelines when it comes to drug-related cases. He said that a table of sentencing guidelines for these cases would remove uncertainties and make the process a lot simpler.
According to Greaves, the current process of darting about mathematically between various quantities in grams is a very tedious exercise for criminal dispositions and it is likely to cause some uncertainties for defendants in terms of the course they may want to take.
Greaves pointed out that there seem to be too many cases that tend to lead to a lot of confusion and to raise specters of inconsistency. He added that he does not believe it would be hard for a committee to do the needed research and then come to a consensus with regard to appropriate sentencing guidelines.