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HAMILTON, Bermuda – The new Progressive Labour Party (PLP) government says it will introduce legislation to decriminalise cannabis possession if the amount is under seven grams, Governor John Rankin announced Friday.
“The criminalisation of our citizens for minor, non-violent possession of cannabis is an open sore on our society, damaging the lives of hundreds of Bermudians, young and old,” Rankin, said as he delivered the traditional throne speech at the start of the new parliament.
“This is also an issue of fairness as black people in our society are far more likely to be arrested, charged and convicted for cannabis possession than white people.”
A living-wage policy is also on the cards as the new government, which crushed the ruling One Bermuda Alliance in July’s general election, outlined its plans for its first year back in power. The PLP previously ran the island between 1998 and 2012.
“To ensure that workers can live in dignity and are not working simply to remain in poverty, the government will support a new parliamentary committee to complete the work that was started in the last parliament to examine the living wage,” the Governor said, adding “this committee will present Parliament with recommendations for a living wage in Bermuda”.
A tax reform commission is also to be set up, including legislators from both parties, the business world and trades unions and the Bermuda Bar, in a bid to streamline the island’s tax system and recommend reforms “that enhance Bermuda’s international competitiveness and increase tax compliance”.
The new administration said it would “selectively release information pertaining to sex offenders to members of the public”.
Rankin said: “Offenders and the disclosure of their information will be managed according to the risk they pose to the public.
“Since the election, the new government has created a protocol on disclosure of information identifying a sex offender and this will be distributed among stakeholders to formalise a systematic approach to minimising the risks posed to the public by high-risk offenders.”
The government has also vowed to bring in new ways of tackling gang warfare, including a gang violence reduction co-ordinator and financial support for gang members who want to break free of the lifestyle and learn a trade or go into education.
The government is to look at the introduction of a “sugar tax” on the sale of some foods and drinks.
“While unhealthy foods are often appealing due to their lower prices, the cost of treatment is significantly higher than the cost of prevention.
“Food prices are too high in Bermuda and the high cost is even more evident when one wants to feed their family healthier options. Bringing down the cost of food will require a collective effort and original thinking to be successful and sustainable.”
Rankin said: “Accordingly, the government will grant the Price Control Commission additional powers and scope to find innovative ways to reduce the cost of living in Bermuda.”
“Bermuda can do better. Bermuda can transform our education system to prepare the next generation of CEOs and tradesmen. Bermuda can diversify our economy to create new jobs and encourage economic growth.
“Bermuda can heal our social fabric to restore peace and rebuild our sense of community. However, Bermuda will only do better when all segments of our society work together to ensure that Bermuda becomes more fair, more just and more equitable,” Rankin added. (CMC)