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Exercise caution with the cannabis issue

Much of the world is battling with addiction problems of all types that include legal and illegal substances, which when misused have taken a heavy toll and have left devastated families in communities across the globe. With an ocean of various forms of addiction, it is a subject that continues to generate considerable debate, especially on the pros and cons of cannabis.

Tragically, addiction has also affected the young and especially the vulnerable, who often take great risk to gain what they perceive as a high that is not attainable by any other means. Nothing could be farther from the truth, and in many cases the result turns tragic before there is time to seek help.

Every day young lives around the world are lost, leaving families shattered as officials find themselves up against ruthless criminals who operate a market of dangerous products, without regard for victims or their families. Sadly, what keeps such criminal activity alive is public demand that persists despite efforts by police and community groups, who try to discourage the practice by reaching out to young people before they can experiment with stimulants.

However, even with some degree of success, the new world of cyberspace technology is such that in many households, parents are without a clue as to who their children are communicating with, or what they may be up to. That grim reality, even here in Bermuda, is that no family with children can afford to avoid discussing this vital subject because, at this very moment, young minds throughout our communities are at risk.

Recently Barack Obama, the President of the United States, noted that more Americans are dying yearly from overdoses of drugs — legal and illegal — than those involved in traffic accidents throughout the nation. Addiction worldwide remains a significant issue and poses a serious threat to future generations.

Whether cannabis should be legalised or not in Bermuda sets off opposing viewpoints, with heated exchanges. Medical officials globally favour medical benefits for some patients under a regulated system, but many refrain from giving the green light for unrestricted use of cannabis because experts say that if it is unregulated, the substance has negative effects on the body.

The age-old argument that alcohol and other legal substances cause similar effects is usually put forward by advocates for legalising cannabis, but others feel opening the door for yet another substance that affects brain activity is not in the best interest of building stronger communities. One has to consider the massive reaction against new codes internationally to reduce smoking in the workplace, and indeed in some places of public functions.

Just as evidence proved that smoking was a serious threat to health, there has been evidence that cannabis is not as safe as some would have you believe. In fact, some doctors concluded that young minds were at greater risk for damage. Some will dismiss that claim as scare tactics, but it is really better to be safe than sorry.

The Government of Bermuda will have to weigh the issue very carefully because making a decision on something simply because it is popular could have consequences later. Everyone has a right to a view — that is democracy. What usually happens on sensitive issues is that they become too immersed in politics. It is to be hoped that whatever is decided will not be based purely on political interest. Both sides of this issue should be prepared to move with caution because what is best for the health and safety of the Bermudian community should be the highest priority.