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Cannabis delay should refocus attention on protecting our youth

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ChildWatch would like to thank Rena Lalgie, the Governor of Bermuda, for her decision to reserve Royal Assent of the Bermuda Cannabis Licensing Bill 2022.

Rena Lalgie, the Governor, has reserved Royal Assent on the passing of the controversial cannabis Bill. Activist group ChildWatch hopes the delay forces a rethink (Photograph supplied)

Bermudians need to be educating ourselves on the subject, what this means and what it will do to our vulnerable young children, and not be concerned only with compliance with the international obligation set out in the United Nations Conventions (1961 Single Convention on Narcotics Drugs, 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substance).

If Bermudian society explores the scientific reports available to us from the many nations that have legalised cannabis, we would be more aware of the harm and not just the financial gain from cannabis legalisation. Thus, we need to be mindful of the detrimental effects caused by this mind and body-altering substance, and how it might control our children.

Edward Tavares is the co-founder of the children’s activist group ChildWatch

A decision was made by the Food and Drug Administration on April 28 to ban menthol cigarettes in the United States. The US Government has realised that this proposed ban of menthol cigarettes will save thousands of lives, especially among Black smokers — 85 per cent compared with 29 per cent of White smokers who use menthol products, according to a government survey. Thus, health experts hailed the US Government’s most meaningful action in more than a decade of tobacco-control efforts.

This ban, if effective, would reduce and diminish the burden of chronic diseases and limit the number of lives cut short by one of the most hazardous legal products available. Menthol cigarette sales in the US is an $80 million market that services 18.5 million Americans. The same example should be applied to banning all harmful drugs!

ChildWatch would like to thank our astute politicians from New Zealand that have provided us with this very useful and informative research, which led them to reject the legalisation of cannabis in New Zealand. We believe that the following information will guide us to also reject legalisation before it is too late or irreversible, causing damage to our children and greatly affecting their future.

A few lessons from researching cannabis, as Kevin Sabet, PhD warns:

• Increase of fatalities where the driver tested positive for marijuana¹ (Colorado, 2018). (Smokescreen, p 208)

• Marijuana hospital admission increased 101 per cent in Colorado and 45 per cent in Alaska² (Smokescreen, p 208)

• Cannabis-use disorder among 12 to 17-year-olds in legal states (Smokescreen, p 209). (Cerda et al, 2019).

• Daily marijuana use among eighth, tenth, twelfth graders at 4.2 per cent. (Smokescreen, p 209). (Miech et al, 2019)

• Increase in calls to poison-control centre for marijuana exposures followed by legalisation in the state, Dr Sabet provides us with the following:

⊳ 2013-2019 Colorado increased by 112.8 per cent

⊳ 2016-2019 Massachusetts increased by 140 per cent

⊳ 2013-2019 Washington increased by 103.2 per cent

Source: Smokescreen (p 208-213)

“In 2007, New Zealand scientists determined that smoking one joint of marijuana was comparable to the effects on airflow obstruction of between 2.5 and 5 tobacco cigarettes, ‘Adverse effects [of marijuana] on lung function is of major public health significance,’ the study authors warned”. (SayNopeToDope.org.nz/nz-research, 2019), (p 9)

“Scientists from the Medical Research Institute of New Zealand concluded: ‘Long-term cannabis use increases the risk of lung cancer in young adults.’ According to the British Lung Foundation, ‘Smoking three or four marijuana joints is as bad for your lungs as smoking 20 tobacco cigarettes.’ THC [tetrahydrocannabinol], the primary psychoactive ingredient of cannabis, decreases the function of immune-system cells that help protect the lungs from infection”. (SayNopeToDope.org.nz/nz-research, 2019), (p 9).

“In fact, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 95 per cent to 97 per cent of people who used cocaine or heroin started with marijuana”.³ Smokescreen (p 223).

“Research shows marijuana use among youth can lead to a permanent eight-point drop in IQ⁴, as well as a significant increase in risk of schizophrenia and suicidal thoughts”.⁵ Smokescreen (p 21-22).

“According to virtually every scientific review, including a 2016 World Health Organisation report and a 2017 National Academy of Sciences study, marijuana is addictive and harmful — despite rhetoric from the marijuana industry”. (SayNopeToDope.org.nz/nz-research, 2019) (p 9).

“Colorado has a booming black market.” US Attorney for District of Colorado Bob Troyer in September 2018, referring to the experience in California, The New York Times warned: “Despite all of the innovation and energy in the legalised market, the black market is still dominant. Only about 3 per cent of marijuana farmers in the (California) state have obtained licences ... The problem is that regulated marijuana, which is subject to testing, taxes and many other regulations as it will be in Canada, costs significantly more than pot grown and sold on the black market. As long as there is onerous regulation and taxation imposed on the legal market, you can forget about getting rid of the illicit market.” (Our emphasis added.) A report from the credit rating agency Fitch in October 2017 said that high taxes on legal marijuana in California could have the potential to turn many consumers away from the state’s cannabis shops and towards the black market. (SayNopeToDope.org.nz/nz-research, 2019), (p 22).

“After just a short time, the black market is appearing in Canada. A Radio-Canada investigation revealed that the financial backers of some producers have links to organised crime.” Anti-drug politicians said: “It’s a troubling sign that, two weeks into the era of legal cannabis, the black market appears to have infiltrated Canada’s legal supply chain.” “The New York Times reported that taming an illegal trade estimated at C$5.3 billion is proving to be daunting”. “The government taking over the cannabis trade is like asking a farmer to build airplanes.” (SayNopeToDope.org.nz/nz-research, 2019) (p 22).

“The myth pushed internationally by drug advocates is, ‘Let’s tax it and use the money to provide addiction services and build schools and hospitals and houses and (insert a great cause here)...’ It sounds attractive, but rarely eventuates.” (SayNopeToDope.org.nz/nz-research,2019) (p 20).

“Drug supporters and the marijuana industry are quick to overestimate large amounts of revenue from marijuana sales but underestimate the societal costs of legalisation. Societal costs not referred to or underestimated by drug supporters include: greater other drug use, greater marijuana use among under-age students, property and other economic damage, controlling an expanded black market, public intoxication, and other burdens. Legalisation also results in administrative and enforcement costs, similar to alcohol regulation”. (SayNopeToDope.org.nz/nz-research, 2019), (p 20).

Expectant mothers’ exposure to marijuana. “Researchers say psychoactive compounds in marijuana easily cross the placenta, exposing the foetus to perhaps 10 per cent of the tetrahydrocannabinol that the mother receives, and higher concentrations if the mum uses pot repeatedly. Another study by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists reported that young women from lower income levels have a 15 per cent to 28 per cent rate of marijuana use during pregnancy. Up to 60 per cent of these young women continue marijuana use throughout pregnancy owing to a decreased perception of risk and stigma.

Effect on babies: studies show marijuana increases the risk of stillbirth and adversely affects how a baby’s brain develops. Studies also show these kids may have behavioural problems at higher rates than other children by the age of 14. Christian Thurstone, director of the Step Programme at Denver Health — one of Colorado’s largest youth substance-abuse treatment programmes — has conducted extensive research which shows that children exposed to marijuana in utero have a five-point decrease in IQ at age 6; a greater chance of depression, hyperactivity and impulsivity at age 10; and lower school achievement at age 14”. (SayNopeToDope.org.nz/nz-research, 2019) (p 11).

Newborns Failing Drug Tests: “Colorado’s legalisation of recreational marijuana has led to an increase in the number of babies being born THC-positive. One Pueblo hospital is reporting nearly half the babies tested in one month had marijuana in their system”. (SayNopeToDope.org.nz/nz-research,2019,) (p. 11).

Treatment for morning sickness: approximately 70 per cent of randomly selected medical marijuana centres in Colorado recommended marijuana as a treatment for morning sickness for pregnant women. Doctors caution that marijuana’s effects on a foetus could include low birthrate and developmental problems. (SayNopeToDope.org.nz/nz-research, 2019), (p 11).

Mum’s influence: “When mothers use marijuana during the first 12 years of their child’s life, their children are more likely to start using cannabis at an earlier age than children of non-using mothers. The 2017 US National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Marijuana Use by Pregnant Women: the 2017 survey revealed that 161,000 pregnant women past month usage, and 69,000 daily usages. In 2015, monthly use was 78,000 and 28 daily usages”. (SayNopeToDope.org.nz/nz-research, 2019) (p 11).

“There are over 20,000 peer-reviewed research articles linking marijuana use to severe mental health outcomes, ranging from depression to psychosis, as well as to consequences for physical health” (Smokescreen, p 214).

According to the Bermuda National Household Survey 2021 report, 39.7 per cent of the respondents stated that marijuana was the easiest drug to obtain.

Further, Bermuda’s 2010 National Drug Control report showed that newborns screened positive at birth for the following drugs: 3.3 per cent for marijuana; alarmingly, it was worse for cocaine at 7.2 per cent; and 6.6 per cent heroin. 3.3 per cent alcohol, marijuana combined with cocaine at 1.6 per cent, marijuana combined with morphine at 1.6 per cent. Lastly, marijuana combined with alcohol at 1.6 per cent.⁶

In addition, Bermuda’s Department of National Drug Control 2015 survey revealed: “Current evidence indicates that cannabis use both during pregnancy and lactation, may adversely affect neurodevelopment, especially during periods of critical brain growth both in the developing foetal brain and during adolescent maturation, with impacts on neuropsychiatric, behavioural and executive functioning. These reported effects may influence future adult productivity and lifetime outcomes. The foetus of a pregnant woman who uses marijuana becomes exposed to this substance via the placenta — the source of the baby’s food and oxygen during pregnancy — through the umbilical cord, and into the baby’s bloodstream. Marijuana smoked by a pregnant woman remains in the baby’s fat cells for seven to 30 days and may alter the normal processes and trajectories of brain development. Smoking marijuana can affect the amount of oxygen and nutrients the baby receives, which may affect growth. Research has shown that some babies born to women who used marijuana during their pregnancies display altered responses to visual stimuli, increased tremulousness, and a high-pitched cry, which may indicate problems with neurological development. During the preschool years, marijuana-exposed children have been observed to perform tasks involving sustained attention and memory more poorly than their non-exposed counterparts. In the school years, these children are more likely to exhibit deficits in problem-solving skills, memory, and the ability to remain attentive.”⁷

The alarming research provided herein from New Zealand and elsewhere reveals that marijuana is vastly more harmful than any cigarettes; similarly, the United States now has realised that menthol cigarettes are harmful, and the need to ban them from society is imminent. Therefore, why is Bermuda looking to legalise a product which is more harmful than cigarettes, and which will have a significant effect on our children by making it more accessible to them?

Will it take decades to realise the harm that this product may do to our children and society with such legalisation?

Should we be allowed to be misled by those who do not follow the scientific research, or are we going to follow those that are inherently intertwined by emotional and habitual addiction?

Do we not have enough gang problems in Bermuda, and shouldn’t we be looking at the root causes of traumas within the families, which have created these situations that have resulted?

If our Bermudian children are exposed to these harmful drugs at birth through the foetus, then our children are gaslighted by continued usage. Moreover, when they are further exposed to adverse childhood experiences caused by family dissolution and trauma, heavier usage occurs. Further, could this early exposure from birth be the reason why there is an increase of violence in our youth, and why we can’t fix Bermuda’s education problems?

Especially, if we look at the research which shows that marijuana exposure at birth may cause children’s behavioural problems at a higher rate compared with other children by age 14, the decrease in IQ at age 6, and lower school attainment by age 14, this should trigger many concerning alarms throughout society.


1, Colorado Department of Transportation 2019.

2, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, 2013-2017; Alaska Department of Health and Social Services, 2020.

3, US Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, “Centre for Behavioural Health Statistics and Quality, 2018, National Survey on Drug Use and Health 2016 (NSDUH-2016-DSooo1), Substance Abuse and Mental Health Data Archive, accessed December 18, 2020.

4, National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine, The Health Effects of Cannabis and Cannabinoids: The Current State of Evidence and Recommendations for Research (Washington, DC: The National Academies Press) 2017.

5, National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine.

6, Bermuda Department for National Drug Control, Deconstructing the Drug Problem in Bermuda 2010 (p94).

7, Bermuda Department for National Drug Control, Survey of Pregnant Women Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (Audit) & Tobacco and Marijuana Use among Pregnant Women Presenting for Prenatal Care 2015.

Edward Tavares is the co-founder of the children’s activist group ChildWatch

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Published May 23, 2022 at 8:00 am (Updated May 22, 2022 at 10:21 pm)

Cannabis delay should refocus attention on protecting our youth

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