Bermudians will get economic opportunities from the legalisation of cannabis, the Attorney-General said.
Kathy Lynn Simmons said proposed new legislation — released for consultation this week after being redrafted by the Government — put more focus on creating entry points for the industry.
She said this would mean “more than just the top 1 per cent” would benefit economically from the new laws.
Ms Simmons said: “I really felt that we weren’t hitting the mark when it comes to the economic opportunities that we hoped to afford our citizens.”
She said those interested in being a part of the industry should do their research, develop a business model and prepare for the regime to come into place.
The minister, who was speaking during a Facebook question-and-answer session on Saturday night, conceded a new draft put together by the Government was not perfect. She said it set out basic concepts so that the details could be discussed.
The Attorney-General said her phone had been ringing “off the hook” by people wanting to share their thoughts on proposals for medical and recreational cannabis use. But she warned a balance had to be struck to address health and social concerns.
Ms Simmons added it was hoped legislation would go before the House of Assembly next month.
And she said legislation to expunge convictions of those caught with less than seven grams of cannabis would be put forward soon.
She said: “I’m happy to say that proposal has been supported by the Cabinet and the legislation should make its way before the Senate shortly.”
Ms Simmons said personal cultivation licences had been included in previous drafts, but were removed over enforcement concerns.
She described it as a “tough nut to track”, as it could be difficult to ensure licence holders only have a specific number of plants.
Asked about enforcement of driving while impaired offences, Ms Simmons said she had been assured that equipment used in roadside sobriety tests are appropriate for cannabis cases.
The senator said the prohibitions for cannabis use would be similar to alcohol.
Ms Simmons said: “You cannot drive under the influence, you cannot go to school under the influence, you cannot engage in public use.”
She also said the ministry was trying to strike a balance regarding the distribution of cannabis retail. While the draft legislation says cannabis retail would not be allowed within one mile of a church, she said it was not intended for the limitations to create a “cannabis row”.
Ms Simmons said: “We have to be very careful that we are not limiting availability but also have the safeguards in place.”
She also said that the Government was aware that banking could be a challenge for the cannabis industry, as it has been for casino gaming, but discussions were ongoing and would continue throughout the consultation period.
Ms Simmons said: “I would like to think at this stage in our development the banks would be as supportive of the economic activity in the country as the Government is.”
She also said that there would be lab testing of retail cannabis to ensure its safety.
Ms Simmons also touched on the issue of racial equality in the face of worldwide protests. She said the Government was very interested in legal reform such as workforce equity Bills to tackle systemic racism.
“This is something that other governments in the past have not had the courage to delve into,” she said.
“I would say it’s high time that we put this at the top of the list.”
Ms Simmons said the ministry hoped to introduce a unified family court that will be less intimidated to families with mediation service and social service mechanisms built in.
• To view the draft legislation for the Cannabis (Licensing and Regulation) Act 2020, click on the PDF link under “Related Media”