Pass the spliff: Jamaica, long associated with the recreational use of marijuana, appears to be moving closer to decriminalization. Debate over the drug has been gaining traction here in Bermuda in recent months and tomorrow evening, drugs expert Dr Andrea Barthwell will share her concerns. *Photo montage by Gary Foster Skelton

A former deputy drug czar for the US will outline the dangers of marijuana use before a group of medical doctors and general practitioners tomorrow night.

Dr Andrea Barthwell, the managing partner and medical director of the Chicago-based addiction treatment centre Two Dreams, says the alleged medical benefits of the plant are overblown.

“The scientific studies on the constituents of the plant have not been done,” said Dr Barthwell, a physician who was a drug policy adviser for former President George W. Bush. 

Recently, officials in Jamaica have stated marijuana will be decriminalized by year’s end. Many states in the US have decriminalized the drug or allowed the sale of medical marijuana. Colorado became the first state to allow for the sale of marijuana for recreational use.

Here in Bermuda, there is an ongoing discussion about reforming the island’s marijuana laws.

Stratton Hatfield, lead group member for the Cannabis Reform Collaborative (CRC), said his group, which is charged with making recommendations to the government regarding marijuana reform in Bermuda, would be considering drug law strategies in foreign jurisdictions.


“The question I have for Bermuda is ‘how progressive do we want to be?’,” he asked yesterday (Tuesday).

CRC members are scheduled to meet today with Dr Barthwell, who appears to be an antidote to the proponents of more-relaxed marijuana laws in this hemisphere.

She said much of the liberalization of the drug policy laws in the US have been predicated on the notion that marijuana has proven medical benefits. 

Not rigorous

Dr Barthwell poked holes in the idea that marijuana necessarily had proven medical benefits.

“We don’t know enough yet,” she said. “Pro-marijuana advocates have not held themselves to a rigorous scientific standard.”

She will give  her presentation – titled Scientific Developments: The Pharmacology of Medical Marijuana — at a Department for National Drug Control special seminar, specifically intended for medical doctors and general practitioners. 

Dr Barthwell said the drug laws are important to reduce the use and abuse of illicit drugs. She will focus on preventing drug use and the consequences of drug use.  

She mentioned that if children can avoid tobacco, alcohol and marijuana use by age 17, they have a much higher chance of not developing substance-abuse problems.

“Bermudians should get their information and filter that through their own worldview and don’t let the struggle in the United States influence what they do,” she said.

She dismissed libertarian arguments that assert people should have use of substances such as marijuana if they care to do so.

“With that view, there would be no helmet laws, no seat belt laws,” she said."