The cops in Bermuda love to bust American tourists with small amounts of pot, even if the pot never leaves the cruise ship.
In April, I wrote an article about Bermudan customs officers and police who boarded a cruise ship with a drug sniffing dog and found seven homemade cigarettes in the passenger cabin's safe. The cruise passenger was fined $3,000. The newspapers in Bermuda are quick to identify the names and ages of the American tourists and photograph them, but they avoid mentioning the name of the cruise ship or cruise line, issues I talked about in my blog The Bermuda Press and the Cruise Industry - See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil.
In October 2009, a cruise passenger was busted for pot when a Bermudan customs sniffer dog found 12 joints of marijuana during a search of the cruise ship, while the ship was in port in St. George's. The cruise passenger pled guilty to importing drugs into Bermuda, which is difficult to understand because the joints were discovered in the passenger's luggage inside his cabin on the cruise ship.
In May of 2010, two cruise passengers were arrested by Bermudan police officers who boarded the cruise ship and searched the ladies' cabin. They found a plastic bag with 6.68 grams of cannabis. The Court in Bermuda fined them $500 each for possessing marijuana, even though it was for their personal use and they did not try to bring the reefer ashore.
Well, the Bermudan authorities have now stepped enforcement up. They have been enjoying a field day in the last month arresting Americans with small amounts of pot.
The Sun newspaper in Bermuda reports last week that a cruise passenger from a cruise ship (the newspaper chose not to mention its name) was fined $2,500 for possessing 10 grams of cannabis. Bermudan customs officers boarded the ship and found a small bag of pot and partially smoked cigarettes.
Arguing to a court in Bermuda that the pot is for medicinal purposes will make the matter worse, as two American women learned in separate incidents.
According to the Sun newspaper, Teresa Sheridan, 53, of Oregon was arrested last month at the airport in Bermuda when customs officials found a bag with just three grams of cannabis. She claimed that she smoked pot as treatment for depression. The court was not impressed and imposed a fine of $2,000.
A worst fate met U.S. tourist Edith Lord Wolffe, 59, who was also arrested last month at the airport in Bermuda. Customs officials found 14 homemade marijuana cigarettes in her luggage.
Her lawyer argued for leniency. Ms. Wolffe was from California where pot has been de-criminalized. She smokes marijuana for her Ménière's disease. The lawyer informed the court that she has a prescription for the marijuana from her doctor as she suffers from the chronic illness. He presented the court with a copy of a medical certificate with the illness and prescription outlined on it to treat the medical condition. According to the Sun newspaper, the court responded: “I am of the view that this matter calls for an immediate custodial sentence.” The court fined Ms. Wolffe $3,000 plus 30 days in jail.
Bermuda has a strange sense of priorities. It has a pitiful record investigating the disappearances of crew members or prosecuting violent crimes, such as rape, on Bermuda flagged cruise ships, as we have written about before. If you are a sexual predator on a Bermudan flagged ship, no policeman from Bermuda will ever bother you.
But if you are a stoner who cruises to Bermuda and have a few joints stashed back on the cruise ship in your luggage, prepared to be arrested, fined and perhaps incarcerated.
And don't tell the judge that pot is legal in California and you get high for medical reasons . . .
June 27, 2011 Update: The Royal Gazette newspaper reports that a "cruise ship drug smuggler" was sentenced to two and one-half years in prison for delivering "cannabis residue" to Bermuda and collecting $7,000. His companion was fined $1,000. As usual, this newspaper did not mention the name of the cruise line or cruise ship.