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Time to reclassify cannabis

April 1, 2013

Dear Sir,

I am writing to you concerning cannabis usage in Bermuda. I will explain the uses of cannabis, logic behind international conventions and shortcomings of the Government of Bermuda for inadequately managing cannabis use in Bermuda. There was at one time a distinction between industrial hemp and marijuana. The difference was the percentage of resin the plant contained and the proportion of its cannabinoid’s. All cannabis is prohibited from being imported, exported, possessed, cultivated or processed except with license from the Ministry of Health. Therefore, the prohibition of cannabis is considered a health issue in Bermuda. Internationally, though, cannabis laws had racial, economic and immigration motivations. Today, with the world’s dwindling supply of timber, crude oil, rising healthcare costs, and growing poverty, cannabis is considered vital to the survival of the human species.

Apart from the industrial uses of cannabis, Bermudians utilise cannabis as a relaxant devoid of the impairment of alcohol. Further to the fact that users experience “couch lock” where they feel relaxed and tend to sleep, it is likely that cannabis users have a much lower disposition to violence and irrational behaviour than persons using alcohol. It has been argued that THC impairs short-term memory, impairs cognitive functioning and causes psychosis. This is indicative of cannabis psychotoxicity, a condition where a person has consumed too much cannabis, but this is wholly temporary. The other part of the equation that you may not know is that cannabis contains many many other phytocannabinoids besides THC. These compounds interact with cannabinoid receptors which are concentrated in the brain, but exist through the whole body.

All of these, including THC have been found to have medical use ranging from multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, psychosis, glaucoma, tumour apoptosis, appetite stimulation and relief from anxiety. Cannabidiol (CBD), the second most prevalent cannabinoid in cannabis, moderates THC’s negative effects and have positive effects of its own. Cannabidiol has shown potential as an antipsychotic, anxiolytic, antiepileptic, sedative, anti-oxidative, neuroprotective, anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, anti-emetic and diabetic management drug when used in varying proportions with THC. While THC on its own, as shown with Dronabinol, can induce hallucinations, preparations consisting of THC: CBD ratios of 1:1 such as Sativex are devoid of negative psychiatric effects. Combustion is known to produce toxic substances, but with alternative routes of administration, users can completely eliminate these risks.

Government needs to re-examine their approach and be more honest about cannabis. Failure to do so will result in the criminal elements of Bermuda becoming emboldened and protected under the veil of secrecy that exists in Bermuda. Government needs to admit that there are medical uses of cannabis and that the biggest risk involved with cannabis use is entirely related to its combustion, not the substance itself. I would like to suggest that Government downscale its classification and penalties for cannabis use and cultivation as it does several things. It removes profit from gangs, frees up the courts handling actual crimes such as rape, murder and theft. In the UK, there is a system where cannabis use is dealt with a caution, isn’t recorded as a conviction, and persons get to continue their employment and contribute to society. Police would send an accurate message to people that while its use isn’t advised, it doesn’t make its citizens criminals for choosing to use cannabis. Police can focus on heroin and cocaine dealing houses which are operating up and down the island without interference. Failure to at least propose a change would signal to young voters that both political parties lack resolve and that neither party is concerned with the welfare of its citizens.



Photo by Mark Tatem A police officer stands amongst a crop of cannabis plants, some 6ft high, that were found in a patch of land off of Cochrane Road, Sandys in 2009.

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Published April 02, 2013 at 9:00 am (Updated April 01, 2013 at 8:14 pm)

Time to reclassify cannabis

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