Smoking up: A person identifying himself as Jermagisty Tha King of Denver lights up a 28-ounce blunt as thousands gathered in Denver earlier this year to celebrate Colorado’s medicinal marijuana laws. Tomorrow, the recreational use of marijuana becomes legal. *AFP photo
Smoking up: A person identifying himself as Jermagisty Tha King of Denver lights up a 28-ounce blunt as thousands gathered in Denver earlier this year to celebrate Colorado’s medicinal marijuana laws. Tomorrow, the recreational use of marijuana becomes legal. *AFP photo

The Cannabis Reform Collaborative will examine the marijuana policies of governments from around the world as the group looks for ways to reform Bermuda’s laws regarding the drug.

That includes Colorado, which will become the first government in the Western Hemisphere to legalize the sale of the drug for recreational use tomorrow.

That’s state’s steady march towards legalization has come in steps during the past 13 years.

Colorado allowed for marijuana to be sold for medical use starting in 2000, and it has been legal to possess up to one ounce of marijuana or to grow six marijuana plants for more than a year.

Tomorrow, licensed retailers will be able to sell cannabis to anyone over 21 years of age.

Stratton Hatfield, a CRC lead group member, says the CRC will consider Colorado’s approach of phasing in increasingly liberal marijuana laws in several stages.

In addition to Colorado, Washington state has also decriminalized and is on its way to legalization. 

Uruguay model

California is among the slew of states to decriminalize and may be the next to opt for legalization.

Uruguay, meanwhile, voted last summer to legalize the production, sale and consumption of marijuana. 

Portugal, back in 2001, decriminalized the personal possession and use of all drugs, and Switzerland last year decriminalized possession of small amounts of cannabis — less than 10 grams. 

Selling the drug, however, is still illegal in that country. 

The CRC will consider the laws of all of those countries in its research, said Hatfield.

“We’re planning to look at what various international jurisdictions are doing.

“Countries are starting to look at the war on drugs as a health issue, as opposed to a criminal issue. Now they’re really looking at drug users as patients that can be treated.”

The collaborative, which began meeting earlier this month, is considering reclassification, decriminalization, medical use of marijuana and full-blown legalization of the drug. 

It’s comprised of 11 members. The group is tasked with researching cannabis policy reform and submitting recommendations to the government. 

The group plans to organize a town hall forum sometime in the beginning of 2014 in order to hear input from the community. The group also plans to administer electronic surveys and smaller focus groups.

Hatfield says his organization will analyze how softening the marijuana law could save court and law enforcement resources.

He says the possession law that is currently on the books sometimes hamstrings Bermudians, particularly young residents who want to leave
the island for college or work.

The penalty for a small amount of cannabis can complicate travel, employment and education options, particularly in the U.S., says Hatfield.

“Decriminalization has not been ruled out, nor has legalization, nor has medical use. 

“We’re looking at every option and we’re aware of the sensitivities,” said Hatfield, a freelance designer by trade.

Hatfield expects the group to publish its findings sometime before next summer’s legislative session. 

Weed or no weed: introducing the leading members of the Collaborative

Stratton Hatfield is a freelance designer and educator with experience in teaching and strategy development. He served on the Sustainable Development Roundtable as an active member and has volunteered in the third sector for multiple organizations.

Rev. Dr. Ernest Peets Jr. is a former Senior Probation Officer/Coordinator for Bermuda’s Drug Treatment Court. He is currently the programme coordinator for FOCUS counseling and has been a Professional Member of the American Counselors Association and Bermuda Counselors Association for 12 years.

Kamal Worrell is a criminal defence lawyer with Lions Chambers and additionally has experience in horticulture. He served as a member of the Sustainable Development Roundtable.

 Krystl Assan is a literacy educator and freelance journalist. She has extensively campaigned for human rights and has experience in the government’s Central Policy Unit. 

Cordell Reilly is the managing director of Profiles of Bermuda and a qualified statistician. He served as past president of CURB, the anti-racism community activist group, and has extensive experience in community development.

 Lamar Caines is a credit analyst at Butterfield Bank and community activist. 

Julia Van Beelen is a registered architect and partner of Cooper Gardner. She is a sustainability advocate and has been an environmental activist since the 1980s with experience in planning and executing large initiatives such as the fish pot ban.

Robyn Swan is a corrections officer with the Government Department of Corrections. 

Eron Hill is an 18-year-old legal understudy with Elizabeth Christopher. He hopes to one day become an attorney. 

Khomeini Talib Din is an insurance professional with extensive experience on government boards. He is an activist who hosted a community radio show for two years.

Kyle Bridgewater is an entrepreneur and owner of OMP limited. In the past, he has served on the Sustainable Development Roundtable.