UK rejects cannabis bill already approved by Bermuda lawmakers

The United Kingdom instructed the governor of Bermuda to reject the island nation’s pending cannabis law on the basis that it breaches international obligations set out in United Nations drug-control treaties.

The move brought the island country to the brink of a constitutional crisis, local media reported.

Bermuda is a U.K. territory, so any new law requires approval – known as Royal Assent – by the U.K.-appointed governor.

Royal Assent typically is a formality.

This is at least the second time in recent years the U.K. has taken the rare move of intervening in pending cannabis legislation in one of its territories.

The U.K., already the biggest medical cannabinoid exporter in the world, blocked a British Virgin Islands (BVI) law after the country’s elected representatives passed the Cannabis Licensing Act in 2020.

At the time, BVI House of Assembly Speaker Julian Willock blasted the U.K., calling it “an insult” to the island country and an “abuse of power, dictatorship and injustice to the people.”

Bermuda’s House of Assembly approved the Cannabis Licensing Bill 2022 in March, sending the pending law to the governor for Royal Assent.

The law would have created a Cannabis Licensing Authority to establish a licensing system to bring illicit cannabis sales into the regulatory fold.

The law also aimed to regulate:

  • Imports and exports.
  • Cultivation for personal use and medical use.
  • Cultivation for commercial purposes.
  • Research, manufacture and transport cannabis or medicinal cannabis.

Experts have questioned the U.K. decision, noting that Canada – also a Commonwealth county – already legalized recreational cannabis.

Global Affairs Canada, which manages diplomatic ties, didn’t immediately respond to an MJBizDaily request for comment on the U.K. decision.

Germany is also planning to bring adult-use marijuana sales into the regulatory fold.

Last year, Bermuda Premier David Burt warned that any U.K. rejection of approved legislation would “destroy” relations between the two countries.

“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,” Burt said at the time, according to the Royal Gazette newspaper.

The governor’s announcement of the rejection of the law is available here.

A copy of Bermuda’s Cannabis Licensing Bill is available here.