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Cabinet to look at marijuana reform

The legalisation of medical marijuana could be on the cards, National Security Minister Michael Dunkley said yesterday.

And — in the clearest signal that the Island's laws on the drug are set to be liberalised — Mr Dunkley added that a major report on marijuana reform will be looked at by Cabinet as early as next month.

Mr Dunkley said: “It's time to take a look at the medical use of marijuana and time to take a look at our policies. I leave it at that at this point.”

And he said: “There are a lot of different aspects involved, whether it's the medical process of cannabis or the stop list — some people go as far as legalisation.

“We have had many discussions about potential reform going forward but it would be inappropriate for me to make comment before we get the report and sit down with the department of National Drug Control.”

He added: “I want to use opportunities for medical marijuana use — we all have a heart when we are looking at people suffering and how cannabis can be utilised in treatment and pain relief.

“If we are going to make changes on how we handle it, we have to make sure we make these decisions to protect these people and protect their health.

“Before we liberalise the use of cannabis in any way, we have to be ready for the consequences we know about and the consequences that might be unintended.”

Mr Dunkley said that the debate on marijuana in several US states and elsewhere had also been looked at in Bermuda, although he cautioned that information from overseas had to be analysed carefully.

“All of this helps us form our way going forward. People will clearly see the immediate direction we will take and the longer term direction we will take.”

He said the stop list, where those convicted of even minor drugs offences could find themselves facing severe restrictions on travel to the US, would also be a major consideration in looking at any changes to the law.

The Cannabis Reform Collaborative (CRC), set up last year to prepare the report for the Minister, yesterday sent out an electronic survey to canvass public opinion on marijuana.

The CRC's brief was to “identify the benefits and consequences of reclassifying, legalising, or decriminalising cannabis and investigate its medical uses.”

A spokesman for the National Security Minister said then: “Through comprehensive research and public consultation, the Cannabis Reform Collaborative [CRC] aims to provide a sound basis for rational, humane action towards reforming Bermudian laws and policies.

“Its members will look at cannabis and current cannabis policy from health, human rights, spiritual, cultural and economic perspectives in an effort to provide a fair and inclusive overview of policy options.”

Mr Dunkley added that drug law reform and a potential end to conscription into the Bermuda Regiment would dominate his agenda in the coming months of the Parliamentary session.

He said: “I am certainly delighted to see that the Opposition wants to do something with regard to the cannabis issue and with regard to conscription, but I don't want to be political — I want to get results on this.”

Mr Dunkley added that Government had not supported a PLP bill to end conscription because it was tabled without notice and without a clear plan to maintain a viable force, which “doesn't set a good agenda trying to go forward on this issue.”

“The Bill was very shallow — it eliminated conscription, but didn't say how the Regiment would go forward,” he said. “We will not allow the Regiment to be a weaker body because of it.”

Mr Dunkley explained that the National Security and Defence Review would be tabled in the House of Assembly at the start of the summer session of Parliament.

“The most important thing going forward is to increase volunteer recruitment as much as we can and get opinions on how conscription might go,” he said. “There are many options — a smaller, full-time Regiment, a Regiment that is supported by national service. All of these options could be put on the table.”

Government is to consider a major report on the reforming of marijuana laws.

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Published March 14, 2014 at 9:00 am (Updated March 14, 2014 at 12:45 am)

Cabinet to look at marijuana reform

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