Caribbean: New Bermuda Drug Chief Hints at Marijuana Law Review 12/23/05

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http://stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle/416/bermuda.shtml

In a surprising turnaround just two weeks after being appointed Bermuda's National Drug Control Minister, veteran drug-fighting police leader Wayne Perinchief said Saturday he would review the island nation's marijuana laws. The remarks came in response to a question about decriminalization at weekend press conference.

As recently as two weeks ago, Perinchief was doing his best Harry Anslinger imitation, telling the Bermuda Royal Gazette marijuana was a dangerous gateway drug. "The myth that marijuana is benign should be expelled," he said, relating a tale of old friends of his. "Every one of the guys who started on the 1960s and 1970s on marijuana went on to heroin or certainly cocaine and they either had an early demise or to this day they are in financial difficulties or real dire straits socially. It was hip in the 60s to smoke pot, now they are struggling. I know these people. Marijuana is a big step because you are moving to criminality. It's criminal use of an addictive substance."

But in that same interview, he also confessed that marijuana use was socially acceptable in Bermuda, and on Saturday he said he was concerned that so many young people were being penalized for it, some by being blocked from going to college. Many people were calling for decriminalization, he noted.

"We have to consider going forward in this modern age and keeping in sync with other countries," Perinchief said. The marijuana laws had a "disproportionately punitive effect on young people," he added, noting Bermuda students being blocked from college over small-time possession charges. "It opened my eyes, I wasn't entirely shocked by it but it was a wake up call. You can take your message from that. It is something I will be reviewing."

It's not just young Bermudans who suffer under the country's zero-tolerance pot laws. With its drug dog searches of incoming cruise ships, the tourist destination regularly catches and punishes visitors carrying small amounts of weed. Expect to be jailed, fined $1,000, deported, and barred from returning for at least two years. As if you'd want to after such an experience -- but that could change if Bermuda changes its marijuana laws.

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Issue #416 -- 12/23/05

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