Bermuda Grass and the law

One of Bermuda’s most famous plants is Bermuda Grass, or Cynodon Dactylon under its Greek name.

This grass is not originally native to Bermuda, but is an abundant invasive species. Because it is fast-growing and tough, it is very popular for golf courses, of which there are many in Bermuda. However, its persistence means that it can often overgrow other plants, and it is said to be resistant to various forms of herbicide. As a result, some gardeners call it “Devil Grass” (perhaps an appropriate name, for the Devil’s Isles of Bermuda).

For more information, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cynodon_dactylon

Another, but more controversial, form of Bermuda Grass is marijuana, which often makes the legal news in Bermuda, for one reason or another.

The most recent coverage related to the new Bermuda DPP’s, Larry Mussenden’s, initiative to conduct a public consultation on a ‘caution’ policy for simple possession of cannabis for personal use (with a view to decriminalising it, for locals and tourists alike).

https://www.gov.bm/articles/statement-director-public-prosecutions-larry-mussenden

Although the consultation period has now closed, the DPP has not yet announced what the new policy will be.

Perhaps the new DPP is anxious to avoid a judicial review challenge of the sort that was famously pursued in Jamaica in the late 1990s, by Dr. Dennis Forsythe (as reported in Forsythe v Director of Public Prosecutions and Attorney General (1996) 34 JLR 512)?

Dr. Forsythe petitioned the Supreme Court of Jamaice for a declaration that his constitutional rights to freedom of conscience and freedom of religion (Rastafarianism) had been infringed by Jamaica’s Dangerous Drugs Act 1924. Dr. Forsythe had been arrested for illegal possession of marijuana and a pipe. The Court rejected his complaint, although Jamaica’s laws have recently been relaxed.

For more information, see: http://ohrh.law.ox.ac.uk/jamaican-marijuna-reform-rastas-and-rights/

Jamaica’s looser marijuana laws go into full effect

A similar legal challenge was brought in England and Wales in 2001, in the case of R v Taylor [2001] EWCA Crim 2263 (23 October 2001), reported at  URL: http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCA/Crim/2001/2263.html

Mr. Taylor argued, on appeal, that his prosecution under the UK’s Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 infringed his rights, as a Rastafarian, under Articles 9 and 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (incorporated into English law through the Human Rights Act 1998).

The English Court of Appeal rejected the defence of Rastafarian use for the purpose of the appeal against conviction, but accepted that it might constitute a relevant mitigating factor, in reducing the sentence.

As the English Court of Appeal said, “Once it was conceded by the prosecution that the contemplated supply was for religious purposes, and once there was a lack of evidence that the applicant was engaged in supply for commercial benefit rather than religious purpose, the sentence passed by the learned judge was, as it seems to us, significantly too long“.

For a selection of Bermuda’s marijuana stories, see:

http://www.royalgazette.com/crime/article/20160530/cannabis-policy-input-pleasing-says-dpp

http://www.royalgazette.com/news/article/20160425/call-for-overhaul-of-drug-policy

http://www.royalgazette.com/article/20150923/news/150929892

http://www.royalgazette.com/health/article/20160530/not-using-medical-cannabis-deemed-insane

http://www.royalgazette.com/news/article/20160711/canadian-charged-with-importing-cannabis

http://www.royalgazette.com/article/20160305/NEWS02/160309805

http://www.royalgazette.com/article/20140602/NEWS/140609992

It is noteworthy that the Cayman Islands is also conducting a national debate on the potential legalization of cannabis for medicinal purposes.

EDITORIAL – Cannabis oil – or political snake oil?

Premier: Legalizing medical marijuana to move forward

 

 

 

 

 

 

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