Department for National Drug Control









24TH OCTOBER, 2013

Good Morning,

It is my pleasure to formally open the 2013 Annual Meeting of the Bermuda Drug Information Network, also known as BerDIN.

I would like to welcome all the members of BerDIN  — who are representatives of a broad spectrum of agencies and departments engaged in drug prevention, intervention, treatment, counseling, rehabilitation, enforcement, interdiction, health, and policy — as well as all invited guests representing key stakeholder departments.

The BerDIN is a critical information network. It provides sound, centrally available, local data, on a wide range of issues that increase our understanding of the complex, dynamic, and evolving nature of the Island’s drug problem.

It shows commitment to the provision of substantive information that allows for dialogue by the public and aids decision making on drug control in Bermuda by policy makers.

The sustained and effective functioning of this Network is therefore vital in supporting the Government’s priorities, and more so, those of the Ministry of Public Safety;  in ensuring Bermuda is safe from the ills of drugs, and crimes associated with drugs, such as the use of guns, gang violence, and money laundering.

All of the representative agencies or departments provide equally important information that needs to be considered collectively in order to achieve a sound overview of the developments we are seeing in the Bermuda drug situation.

While some trends have remained unchanged over the past year, like alcohol and marijuana being the most commonly used substances amongst the general adult population; others have become noticeable, such as the combined use of illegal drugs like heroin with legal prescription substances like Oxycodone.

Moreover, although some types of experimental drug use may be falling, there remains a core of entrenched users — of opioids, cocaine, and even cannabis and alcohol — who experience the greatest problems, and they must remain the focus for our intervention efforts.

In many respects, I believe we can be optimistic that Bermuda’s policy of balancing rigorous and comprehensive demand reduction measures with robust supply reduction actions are bearing fruit.

This is evidenced by the investment — both in fiscal and human capital — in the treatment, rehabilitation, and counseling of persons with substance abuse problems coupled with intervention and prevention programming at formative stages — to increased activity by enforcement and interdiction agencies of drug and cash seizures, in addition to interdiction efforts at our ports.

Surveys show that our residents now feel safer in their neighbourhoods.

However, although much has been achieved, problems remain and new issues are emerging that leave no room for complacency — particularly during this difficult economic time.

No doubt there is still much work ahead of us.

For instance, understanding the illicit drug market requires a holistic approach, following the economic chain from production to consumption via trafficking.

These markets are a huge economic challenge; drug trafficking — whilst illegal — is a highly profitable commercial activity.

According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), 70% of the criminal proceeds of drug trafficking are laundered through the financial system and then penetrate our economy.

We need to be better able to identify this impact on Bermuda’s society and economy.

Future work must focus on quantifying and analyzing how illicit drug markets interact with the economy along with continued efforts in demand and supply reduction activities.

Additionally, I think it is necessary to acknowledge the public debate in Bermuda and overseas that surrounds the use of marijuana.

Without going into too much detail, I do feel it is important to indicate that I am prepared to begin a meaningful discussion on the decriminalization of marijuana in Bermuda.

Let me be clear, I do not support the legalization as I am not convinced that such a course is fit and proper for this country.

I do take notice of the effect that a conviction for the youthful indiscretion of marijuana possession can have on our citizens and with that in mind a wider discussion on decriminalization must take place.

There is also some momentum surrounding the medical uses of marijuana and the relief that proponents say it brings to the sufferers of various diseases.

This discussion cannot be discounted either and must also form part of a sensible, mature public discussion on these issues.

One need only read the newspapers, scroll the net or watch the electronic media to see that Caricom, the UK and even the United States are all considering their position on marijuana.

We have nothing to fear from such a discussion locally and I wish to assure you that our decisions will be research-driven and made in the best interests of the Island as a whole.

It is only through cooperation and coordinated action that our efforts will prove effective.

By re-engaging in your meeting last year, and again being here this year, you demonstrate that you are dedicated to advancing and supporting the work of drug control in Bermuda.

Insights gained from your deliberations at these meetings have and will continue to feed the new policy cycle process on drug control planned for adoption by this Government for the period 2013–2017.

I would like to thank all of you for the outstanding work that you are doing, and will continue to do, to ensure that Bermuda addresses its drug problem based on sound information.  

I would also like to thank the dedicated staff of The Department for National Drug Control for organizing and hosting this event; for leading the efforts to ensure that the collaboration continues; and for ensuring that local data is available to inform decision making at the policy and programme levels; and thereby impacting outcomes.

I am pleased to open this meeting and wish you every success in your deliberations.