cannabis constitutional crisis

Has the UK sparked a constitutional crisis in Bermuda by blocking cannabis legalization?

The tiny North Atlantic archipelago consists of 181 islands. They are a British overseas territory but has elections and makes its own laws.

It is rare for the UK to intervene like this.

What Happened?

Cannabis Constitutional Crisis?

On Tuesday, as Liz Truss became the new British Prime Minister, officials in Bermuda found out the Cannabis Licensing Bill was not becoming law.

Unlike Canada, which has a governor-general appointed by the prime minister, Bermuda’s Governor is UK-appointed.

Like Canada’s governor, this position is usually nothing more than a rubber stamp on legislation. However, on Tuesday, the Governor of Bermuda said: “I have now received an instruction, issued to me on Her Majesty’s behalf, not to Assent to the Bill as drafted.”

The reason?

“The Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs concluded that the Bill, as currently drafted, is not consistent with obligations held by the UK and Bermuda.”

Referring to international anti-drug conventions dating back over sixty years ago.

It’s unknown whether the new British PM made the decision herself. Still, as a former foreign secretary, she likely had a hand in it.

Cannabis Constitutional Crisis in Bermuda 

Independence from Britain has always been an issue in Bermuda. Still, this recent intervention to block cannabis legalization is one step too far.

Bermuda’s attorney general Kathy Lynn Simmons said on behalf of the government that the UK’s intervention was “disappointing, but not surprising, given the confines of our constitutional relationship with the UK government and their archaic interpretation of the narcotic conventions.”

“The people of Bermuda have democratically expressed their desire for a regulated cannabis licensing regime, following the strong endorsement at the ballot box and an extensive public consultation process.

“The Government of Bermuda intends to continue to advance this initiative, within the full scope of its constitutional powers, in keeping with our 2020 general election platform commitment.”

The Bermuda Premier David Burt previously said, “If Her Majesty’s representative in Bermuda does not give assent to something that has been passed lawfully and legally under this local government, this will destroy the relationship we had with the United Kingdom.”

Bermuda’s opposition party has called cannabis legalization a “smokescreen” to push for independence.

What the Hell, Truss?

Cannabis Constitutional Crisis?

This intervention against Bermuda’s democratic process is one of Liz Truss’ first moves as new British PM.

While some may roll their eyes and think “typical Conservative,” the truth is more puzzling. Liz Truss has supported cannabis legalization in the past. If the UK were ever to legalize, they have their greatest chance right now with Truss as prime minister.

So what happened? It’s too early to tell or to speculate. But, as is always the case, money and lobbying probably played a big part.

Or maybe someone’s playing a long game. Perhaps provoking a constitutional crisis in Bermuda was the point.

Details of Cannabis Bill That Led to Constitutional Crisis in Bermuda 

The Cannabis Licensing Bill would have established a new regulatory bureaucracy if it had received royal assent. They would have managed cannabis business licenses and made policy recommendations for future changes.

Cannabis would have been legal for adults over 21 years old. They would have been able to possess up to seven grams. Cultivation licenses were also to be available.