Governor Augustus Jaspert has indicated the recent seizure of 2,300 kilograms of cocaine in the BVI has contributed to his lack of assent to the Drugs (Prevention of Misuse) Amendment Act 2020 which elected representatives submitted to his office months ago.
The drugs have an estimated value of a quarter-billion dollars and represent the largest such seizure ever in a UK territory.
Local representatives have been complaining that no explanation has been given for the Governor’s lack of assent to the bill which would decriminalise possession of small amounts of cannabis and erase some previous convictions.
However, in a December 10 statement, Governor Jaspert said considerations for the Drugs (Prevention of Misuse) Amendment Act 2020 “have been complicated by the increasing number of illegal drugs seizures that have taken place here in recent months – particularly the record-breaking seizure of more than 2,300 kilos of cocaine in early November”.
“Criminal investigations are ongoing, but these instances show that a significant scale of illegal drug trafficking is taking place here. Ministers in the UK are concerned by this and by BVI’s vulnerability to regional organised crime, especially given that the UK holds overall responsibility for BVI’s security and international relationships. I know many others, including myself, share these concerns,” Governor Jaspert explained.
UK Foreign Secretary to decide
Governor Jaspert explained that the bill has been passed on to the UK Foreign Secretary who wants to give further consideration; exploring the possible effects of decriminalising the possession of a recreational drug and thereby potentially increasing its trade.
“He has therefore instructed me to pass the bill to him for assent, so that he may consider alongside wider factors including the security of the region, the UK’s work in the region and the recent United Nations’ decisions. I expect that once BVI’s licensing authority is fully operational in regulating the medicinal marijuana industry, some of these concerns relating to recreational drugs may be mitigated,” Governor Jaspert said.
He explained that the BVI constitution gives the Foreign Secretary the power to instruct a Governor in this way, adding that the UK is trying to keep the BVI safe.
“The Foreign Secretary does not use this power lightly, but believes this bill requires further consideration at the most senior levels in London in order to reassure the people of BVI and international partners,” Governor Jaspert’s statement read.
He continued: “I will endeavour to keep the people of BVI updated and am extremely grateful to the people and the Government for their patience as both bills were under consideration in the UK. As I said before, UK officials stand ready to start work with BVI in order give the Territory the support we require to make this new industry a success. I am pleased that we are now at a point where we can move forward and hope both bills can receive assent soon.”
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