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Attorney General: "Marijuanna Use May Become As Socially Acceptable As Alcohol In Bermuda"



Marijuana use could one day become as socially acceptable as alcohol, according to Government’s chief lawyer.

And Attorney General Mark Pettingill said that, while he was not calling for the legalisation of the drug, the Island had to have a mature discussion on the subject because so many people are users.

But anti-drugs campaigners have expressed caution at the move, pointing out that even socially acceptable drugs can have a damaging impact on lives.

Mr Pettingill said it was important that normally law-abiding citizens were not turned into criminals because of potentially outdated drugs legislation. He also cautioned that, if Bermuda did decide to move forward on the issue, it could only do so after an extensive consultation process and a raft of regulations would have to be put in place to prevent drug abuse.

Although laws criminalising drug use have not changed recently, police have now adopted a cautioning policy in cases where small amounts of marijuana for personal use are recovered.

“I am not an advocate for the legalisation of marijuana but I am an advocate of sensible laws that do not criminalise people,” Mr Pettingill said.

“We have to accept that we have a very large percentage of Bermudians who use marijuana and we have to start that discussion we’ve started that discussion.”

Pointing out that other jurisdictions around the world have started to relax some of their drug laws, Mr Pettingill said: “As a lawyer I like to operate on the evidence and what we will have to do is look at other models and see how they work and see if they can apply to Bermuda. We have to look at ways in which it might be regulated for example, in what way might quality be controlled, in what way can sales be controlled.

“In a way it’s a lot like alcohol. Alcohol is a drug, but there are all sorts of regulations regarding its use and it has become socially acceptable. It is possible that, at some point further down the road, marijuana use could become socially acceptable here, but we need to get public feedback.

“At the end of the day, we might end up staying where we are, but it’s something that needs to be addressed and is certainly on the agenda.”

Responding to the remarks, the chief executive of anti-drug charity PRIDE, said that many questions needed to be addressed on the subject.

“I am a preventionist, working with youth. I want to stop alcohol and other drug use before it starts,” Judith Burgess said.

“When I look at the socially acceptable use of alcohol, I see the devastation it has wreaked on so many homes, family members, our children and our roads. How than can I condone the socially acceptable use of marijuana for our children?

“So, within the ‘discussion’, consideration needs to be given to the social impact and will that impact be equal to or worse than alcohol.

“There are many questions to be answered. What would be the legal age of use? Will it create dependency and treatment issues? Will it lead to other drugs? What about health problems, mental health, anti-social behaviour and incapacitated drivers?”

Source : RoyalGazette.Com

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