If you are a stoner who can’t help stashing a couple joints of ganja in your socks to smoke sailing from New York to Bermuda, chances are you have a good chance of meeting Senior Magistrate Archibald Warner.
You see, Magistrate Warner is a criminal judge in Bermuda’s capital of Hamilton who helps the customs officers raise revenue for the little island in the middle of the Atlantic by fining cruise passengers who have small amounts of marijuana in their cabins on the cruise ships.
The game goes like this. Carnival and Royal Caribbean cruise ships arrive in port. The Bermuda customs officers sit back, smile and greet all of the cruise tourists. Once the cruise ships have emptied out and the passengers are ashore to sight-see and drink, the customs officer take their sniffer dogs and conduct random searches of passenger cabins.
No need for a search warrant. No need for something we call "probable cause" in the U.S. Once the dogs have sniffed out a few cigarettes of the evil weed, the customs officers wait for the passengers to return with their trinkets and souvenirs. Surprise. Surprise. Surprise.
That’s when Magistrate Warner steps in. He has never seen a cruise passenger with a good excuse. I’m sorry your honor, I had no intention of bringing the pot ashore to your beautiful country. $1,000 or 30 days in jail! It’s for medical use, I have a note from my doctor, I have cancer. Nonsense, $3,000 or 60 days in the slammer!
The penalty for having pot in your cruise cabin in port ranges for $500 to $3,000 (for less than 20 grams), a stern lecture by Magistrate Warner, and your photo appearing in Bermuda’s Royal Gazette newspaper. Make certain that you cruise with cash or have a balance of a few grand in your ATM because Magistrate Warner will otherwise be happy to invite you to stay in a jail on the rocky island for 30-60 days in lieu of immediate payment.
The latest cruise passenger to fall into the trap was a 43 year old passenger from New York last week. The newspaper article in Bermuda reports that the sniffer dogs were at work at 9:37 in the morning and found pot and a pipe in a safe in the cruise passenger’s cabin on the Norwegian Star. After a night in jail, the passenger was fined $2,000 for the pot and pot resin and $2,000 for the pipe. Again, no search warrant, no probable cause, and pot-in-a-safe-on-the-ship scenario.
The cruise passenger was contrite: “It’s embarrassing and I apologise to the court, the government, the police, customs and the ship as well." $4,000 or off with your head!
People ask me, why do you care if cruise stoners get fined, are you a pothead too? I’m happy to respond. No I don’t toke, Never have. A nice scotch at the end of a long day is my vice.
The problem is that Bermuda has a strange sense of priorities. It delights in small time pot busts of vacationers with a cigarette or two in the cabin safe to be smoked for recreational use on the high seas. But rapes or violent shipboard crimes? Bermuda is indifferent to prosecuting rapists and criminals on Bermuda flagged ships.
Compare Bermuda’s madness with the customs policy in Canada toward cruise ships. For a period of a year or so, customs officers in Halifax, Canada arrested four crewmembers and cruise passengers with child pornography on their computers. All of then served jail time. A good use of Canadian customs and judicial resources.
But in Bermuda, you’ll never see a cruise rapist, pedophile or child porn pervert arrested by the customs personnel or sentenced by Magistrate Warner. There’s no money to be made in arresting real criminals.