Bermuda more or less launched its cannabis reform drive last week, with the Cannabis Reform Collaborative’s report being tabled in the HoA by new Premier Dunkley.
Almost from the start, however, the entire cannabis reform discussion and possible reform has been undermined, by both the Premier and the Opposition Leader.
The Premier’s Limits
The Premier, in introducing the report and the initiative for reforms, made the following statement:
“Mr Speaker, while the public debate over the last several months has been wide-ranging, I think it is important to reiterate that the Government’s public undertaking has related to decriminalisation and any potential wider use of cannabis. Let me indicate early in this debate that at this time, the Government is not prepared to consider personal cultivation, licenses for commercial cultivation and sale or blanket legalisation of cannabis. Insofar as this report recommends those things, they do not represent this Government’s current intentions.”
And so, right at the very beginning of debating the CRC report and possible cannabis reforms, the Government, in the form of the Premier (and Minister of National Security) has undermined the debate and the report itself, allowing only for very narrow and limited reforms.
Which seems somewhat contradictory to me (initiating a debate and then saying you can debate all you want, we’re only going to do x, y and zed) and a bit of a slap in the face to all of those who contributed to the report and honestly believed that it would inform debate, leading to evidence-based policy.
Mr Bean’s Ganja Tea
Following the Premier’s opening remarks various MPs stood up to give their thoughts on the matter, and many offered their own personal experiences with marijuana, either through personal use or knowledge of family members or friends using it in their presence/property.
At one point in this self-admission moment, the Opposition Leader contributed his own experiences, noting that in his belief ganja tea had helped his daughter’s asthma and his father’s insomnia.
“Since that day she has never, ever, suffered from asthma. Since that one day, that one cup of cannabis tea. So you can’t tell me the medicinal use of it.”
Which one caused controversy?
Now, of these two, which one do you think has caused the most controversy?
The Premier pretty much stamping out any debate, putting limits on what the Government would do, regardless of the CRC and other sources, or the Opposition Leader contributing, amongst others, to a discussion on personal experiences with cannabis?
As I’m sure most readers are aware, the answer is the latter – the Opposition Leader.
The Premier’s undermining the very exercise has largely been ignored, while the media (and consequently the ‘man on the street’) is fixated on Mr Bean’s admission of providing ganja tea to his three-year old and his aged father.
Now, to be clear, I agree there’s not much evidence to back up Mr Bean’s claims that ganja tea cured his daughter’s asthma. That’s partly due to limitations placed on conducting research on medicinal marijuana by it being a generally illegal drug.
Having said that, I do believe there is evidence that cannabis can relieve anxiety and pain, while also reducing muscle spasms, including in the lungs.
While these may not have ‘cured’ the insomnia or asthma (and its not clear that the daughter had asthma itself, but possibly another respiratory problem), I can see how ganja tea may have contributed to treating the symptoms.
And I am aware that ganja tea has been considered a folk remedy for many additional ailments historically.
I think part of the concern is a misconception that ganja tea is psychoactive. And so people are hearing that Mr Bean gave a toddler a psycho-active drug, which is not the case. The psycho-active properties of marijuana are not water soluble.
Personally, I don’t think ganja tea is any more harmful to a toddler than herbal teas like mint or chamomile – it just sounds worse because of the war on drugs portraying marijuana as an evil psycho-active substance.
My issue with Mr Bean’s contribution to the debate is that it was bad optics, pure and simple.
It wouldn’t take a genuis to predict the fall-out from his comments, that it would serve as a lightning rod for criticism and overshadow what, to me, is the more problematic undermining of the debate by the Premier.
I think it would’ve been wiser for Mr Bean to have been more careful with his wording and revelations. He could still have contributed to the debate without overshadowing it.
Then again, surely we want honest people in the House who speak their mind rather than tell us what we want to hear. So it’s a conundrum of sorts.
Ultimately, while Mr Bean may well be criticised, for various reasons, on his revelations regarding ganja tea, to me the bigger issue is the Premier’s restriction of reform.