Opinion: Implementation Of Cannabis Reform

June 17, 2014

[Opinion column written by Jonathan Starling] I’m sure many Bermudians who have been following the ongoing parliamentary debate about cannabis reform are extremely disappointed with the low calibre of this important discussion by our ‘Honourable’ MPs.

While credit must be given to the OBA for initiating the Cannabis Reform Collaborative and its impressive and wide-ranging, well referenced report [PDF/137 Pages], we must also be critical of the OBA for, having facilitated this report and its myriad of evidence-based policy recommendations, the Government has undermined it by effectively dismissing these recommendations.

Rather than providing coherent explanations for dismissing these recommendations, the Government has committed itself to doing the bare minimum, effectively reverting back to the pre-2012 policy of handing out cautions [rather than arrests and convictions] for personal possession of small amounts of cannabis.

In doing this they seek to provide an illusion of progressiveness while simply reverting back to what we had.

In place of rational evidence-based arguments for not adopting the progressive recommendations of the CRC’s report, we have reactionary and conservative fear-based arguments and a cynical focus on introducing drug-testing for MPs.

Let’s not kid ourselves; the drug-testing for MPs is not about good governance. It’s little more than a cynical and calculating ploy to score cheap political points by engaging in character assassination of Opposition MPs.

Rather than focus on the ‘urgency of now’ and introducing real, progressive policies, like right-of-recall legislation, fixed-term elections or absentee balloting, the Government is wasting the people’s time and money on witch-hunts.

A Public Health Approach Is Needed, Not Misinformation & Fear

I’m not pro-cannabis or pro-drugs.

What I am is pro-evidence based policy and pro-equality.

And the evidence, from Portugal [where drugs are treated as a public-health issue, and personal possession of all drugs has been legalised] and other jurisdictions, along with academic papers, all indicate that the best way to reduce substance abuse and associated crime, is through not simply decriminalisation, but full regulated legalisation.

Such a policy allows for substance abuse to be managed in a healthy manner, reducing the risk of adulterants (where cannabis is cut with heroin or other more addictive drugs), and takes power away from criminal gangs who flourish under prohibition.

It also allows for the racially discriminatory nature of our criminal system to begin to be addressed, and thus contributes to greater long-term equality, which benefits us all.

And despite scare-mongering or simple misinformation – however well-intentioned – about the limitations of medicinal marijuana, there is ample, and growing, evidence that marijuana has important medicinal properties.

Even if these medicinal properties are limited to enhancing appetite and reducing pain, surely these are worthy of being added to our arsenal of improving the quality of life of our people, especially the terminally ill, rather than contributing to their stress through criminalising them, or denying such palliative care out of fear or pandering to conservative minorities.

Some Policies

In the 2012 election, in my election platform, I called for:

  • Decriminalising personal possession of marijuana up to one ounce;
  • Make medicinal marijuana available by prescription.

Since the election I’ve had the opportunity to research this issue further, to speak with individuals more learned in the subject than I, and to review the CRC report, along with additional academic papers on the subject.

While I continue to believe that the above should be the first and immediate steps of cannabis reform, I am now convinced that we must additionally:

  • Decriminalise personal possession of: 25g of Cannabis/Herb [unless in possession of a valid growers license and at the address listed for that license], 5g of Hashish, 2.5g Cannabis Oil, 0.5g pure THC
  • Institute the regulated sale [with age restrictions of 18 years of age for purchase] of marijuana through the State.
  • Every individual over the age of 18 to be able to purchase a maximum of up to 40g [and no more than 25g at any one time] of Cannabis from the State per month upon registration. [Sale through the State removes the profit motive and allows it to be regulated from a public-health perspective.]
  • The same restrictions concerning the smoking of tobacco [enclosed spaces and vehicles] shall apply to the smoking of marijuana.
  • Issue licenses for home cultivation of at least six cannabis plants and no more than twelve.
  • No landlord would have to allow the cultivation or smoking of marijuana on rented property.
  • The sale of home-grown marijuana to be prohibited, with the exception of to the State via licensed home producers.
  • Allow medical marijuana to be prescribed through pharmacies.

- Jonathan Starling

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Comments (8)

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  1. aceboy says:

    Awww…sticking up for the PLP MPs. Cute.

  2. Heavens says:

    Disagree with your restriction suggestions. Pot should have the same legal restrictions as alcohol. i.e. not in public and not in vehicles.

  3. Alan Gordon says:

    Mr. Starling, as the island’s most prominent cannabis reform activist, I feel I have some standing to comment. Like the CRC report and the CURB submission to the CRC, this Opinion is well thought out, comprehensive and sensible. While I always favour larger allowances (in terms of weight, and plant numbers), your report wisely does not call for prison time for those who do exceed limits, leaving open the possibility of an administrative solution.

    Thank you for your sensibility on this matter.

  4. Duhh says:

    Realist s*** ever wrote on the subject 100% behind this

  5. Unbelievable says:

    To say this is “little more than a cynical and calculating ploy to score cheap political points by engaging in character assassination of Opposition MPs”, suggests that PLP MPs are pot smokers.

    Your words, Jonathan. Not anyone else’s.

    • JustAskin2 says:

      Excuse me but I do not believe that the PLP MP’s are the only ones allegedly smoking pot. I’m willing to bet that there are quite a few members of the OBA who are pot smokers. I’m also willing to bet that among ther upper echelon minority, there are users of far more dangerous drugs than marijuana.

  6. yard says:

    Yes follow Portugal.

  7. Boom bye bye says:

    (where cannabis is cut with heroin or other more addictive drugs), huh???? Who does that???