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MPs warn of mental health risks of cannabis for young people

Government MP Wayne Caines (File photograph)

Bermuda must get real about the mental health risks connected to the misuse of cannabis, MPs from both sides of the political aisle have warned.

Wayne Caines, a Progressive Labour Party backbencher, told the House of Assembly on Friday that he had recently heard from a university roommate and fraternity brother that his son, attending university overseas on a full scholarship, had taken his own life.

Mr Caines said the young man had performed well until he began smoking cannabis and suffered a “significant psychosis” with the advent of Covid-19 and the lockdown of students.

Calling his funeral “one of the saddest days of my life”, Mr Caines warned his words were “not going to be popular”.

He added he was “not one of those people who will stand and decry the plant”, conceding cannabis had religious and medical uses.

“We are not here to talk about the propriety of the use of it. In Bermuda, we have decriminalised up to 7 grams of marijuana. But there is something else at play.”

Mr Caines said doctors had found the adult brain matures at age 25 — and identified a link between the drug and the risk of cannabis psychosis and schizophrenia.

“There is something that has happened to young people using marijuana at a young age, before their brain has fully developed,” he said. “In certain instances, young men are developing psychosis because of the misuse of marijuana.”

Mr Caines highlighted the potential for extra genetic propensity towards harm among those of African descent.

“We now need to start having a difficult conversation,” Mr Caines said.

He added that people as young as 12 or 13 could be seen smoking the drug at football matches.

“I hate to say this — the weed from 20 years ago is not the weed they are smoking today.”

He said: “Before, we focused on the legality of it, the morality of it, the financial aspects of it. Now we are seeing a price that is very difficult for us to pay — we are seeing the zombies in our streets.”

The MP emotionally closed his remarks: “I promised his father I would do my part.”

Craig Cannonier, of the One Bermuda Alliance, congratulated Mr Caines for speaking on the issue.

He recalled his own father’s drug use after a bike accident, which spiralled into schizophrenia.

“Most of my childhood was drowned out in pretty aggressive behaviour,” he said.

He added that there were “far too many situations like this where we are losing good-standing young men to unfortunate self-medication”.

Recent and notable seizures of cannabis by police “may have just saved some lives”, Mr Cannonier said.

“As a community and as legislators in this House, we need to come to a resolution on the benefits and scourge of this, and come up with a balance that meets the needs of our young men.”

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Published May 09, 2023 at 3:52 pm (Updated May 09, 2023 at 3:52 pm)

MPs warn of mental health risks of cannabis for young people

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