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MP: Legal cannabis cultivation could stress health and social services

Health warning: Michael Dunkley, the shadow health minister

A controversial bid to legalise cannabis cultivation could damage public health and put a strain on healthcare services, an Opposition MP has claimed.

Michael Dunkley, the One Bermuda Alliance spokesman on health, said the Act would inevitably lead to an increase in cannabis use, which in turn could cause major social problems.

Mr Dunkley, who supported the decriminalisation of the drug, added: “Legalisation is very likely to lead to increased consumption of cannabis simply because it opens up more opportunities to use or consume it.

“The use of any drug or substance could lead to health issues.

“That is why, in this case, with the current concern by many in our community with our social services, we would be wise to make sure that help is available.

“On this legislation it is logical to believe that the Minister of Health and the Minister of National Security would speak.”

Mr Dunkley said: “Many questions should have been addressed by them, such as how support services will be prepared for any increase in demand.”

He criticised Kim Wilson, the health minister, for not addressing the concerns.

Mr Dunkley asked: “What is the Bermuda Police Service view on the Bill?”

He was speaking after the Cannabis Licensing Act was passed in the House of Assembly last Friday.

The legislation, however, still has to be voted on in the Senate and given Royal Assent by Rena Lalgie, the Governor.

The legislation, if approved, will make it legal to grow, sell and smoke the drug for anyone aged 21 or over.

Mr Dunkley said he was worried that people as young as 21 would have access to legal cannabis.

He highlighted that many doctors had warned that the drug could cause damage in people aged under 25.

Mr Dunkley said: “I have expressed my concerns in this regard numerous times when this matter has been discussed.

“I was aghast when the Attorney-General said during the debate that cannabis use was part of our culture and when I spoke I pushed back and said it was not.

“It might be part of some people’s lives but let’s not create a false narrative and talk about it being part of our culture.”

Mr Dunkley added: “Alcohol and drugs have ruined too many lives and, while the government has a large majority, they still must weigh all decisions carefully as, with the passage of time, the consequences surface.

“In this case we must protect our young people and provide a foundation for the future that is stable.

“Legalisation, especially in a small community, is fraught with so many challenges. The Government has failed to address many of them with this Bill.”

Mr Dunkley said that a Government-promised health campaign could reduce some health risks.

But he added: “This Bill creates more bureaucracy that the taxpayer will have to pay for, compliance questions have not been addressed, there is little clarity on how social services will be able to cope with this change, there is no feedback from the Government on how the BPS will police this change, and the licence regime is open to corruption and fraud.”

Mr Dunkley said: “The PLP government lauded this as opportunity for Black people.

“In the middle of a pandemic with the economy tanked, it does little good to think one can smoke away any problems.”

Ms Wilson did not respond to a request for comment.

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Published February 26, 2021 at 8:28 am (Updated February 26, 2021 at 8:28 am)

MP: Legal cannabis cultivation could stress health and social services

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