During the 2013 Throne Speech, the Government said that: “the time has come for leadership in the public debate on marijuana”.

In the spirit of debate, let us first look at the statistics available to us. 

Some within our community have opined that the economic activity surrounding the importation, sale and possession of unlawful, ‘controlled drugs’, constitute a ‘third pillar’ for our economy, while others have referred to it as merely a ‘cottage industry”. The question is, which tale is correct?

$100 Million?

Each year, the Bermuda Police Service provides statistics, which are available to the public, relating to all crime and arrests, including ‘controlled drugs’. The ‘2012 Year End Crime Statistics’, available on www.bps.bm, reveals that the total amount of unlawful ‘controlled drugs’, seized by the police in 2012, amounted to $14,616,553 resulting in 531 drug offences. 

Of the $14,616,553 total drugs that were seized, 80% of this sum, or $11,770,690 related to 518.99 pounds of cannabis. Intriguingly, there are unofficial reports that multiple shipments arrive on our shores annually, with some shipments well in excess of the total amount seized per annum.

This leaves some to assume that the local drug market can produce in excess of $100 million annually, the majority of which is cannabis. With so much money involved, it is no wonder that the importation and supply of cannabis is so prevalent. 

Revenue base?

With so much money involved, shouldn’t the Government be considering ways in which to recover some benefit, which it could reinvest into the community via social, cultural, sports, and education programmes, especially when we are facing the worst financial crisis in living memory?

It is arguable that: 

Cannabis is consumed and traded by a cross-section of demographics within our society;

• Many generations have used cannabis, but never become addicted to it and eventually ceased their usage with age and maturity; 

• Many citizens who do not use, or condone cannabis, accept that it is not necessary to punish their fellow citizens financially, or deprive them of their liberty, for simple possession, especially in these economic times, when the costs of housing inmates exceeds $80,000.00 per annum; 

• Many of these same individuals may also agree that doctors and not politicians, should be the most prudent to determine whether cannabis is suitable for medicinal purposes;

• The Government could generate precious revenue from licence fees and taxes; 

• The Government could curb a generation of individuals from being labelled criminals and assist in ensuring greater numbers of individuals are able to secure gainful employment;

• The police could have more time & resources to focus on more serious crime if the focus was no longer on cannabis; 

• A new aspect of tourism could be developed; and medicinal research could literally enable Bermuda to lead the charge of curing disease.

It is unquestionable that minors can access cigarettes, alcohol and cannabis at present, but it is also arguable that by regulating cannabis, the Government could better protect our young people rather than leaving this substance to the whims of the black market. So what benefit does the prohibition really bring? 

Let me know your thoughts. Email: mdaniels@charterchambers.bm