Caribbean: Bermuda Drug Chief Leans Toward Downgrading Marijuana Offenses 4/21/06

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http://stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle/432/bermuda.shtml

Bermudan National Drug Control Minister Wayne Perinchief has called for marijuana offenses to be downgraded. The Bermuda Royal Gazette reported that Perinchief is calling for Bermuda to follow the British example and treat marijuana as a less serious drug than drugs like heroin or cocaine. Bermuda currently lumps all drug offenses together.

"We are moving now to dealing with drug use as a health issue rather than something criminal," said Perinchief. "If you are going to do that, you need to keep people out of the criminal courts. First offenders with a small amount -- possession for their own use -- could be dealt with outside the criminal court. They could be referred straight to rehabilitation."

Perinchief views marijuana smokers as "victims" of drug dealers, but they are also victimized by the criminal law, he said, citing the inability of people with even a minor drug conviction to travel to the United States. He also conceded that marijuana use is here to stay. "It's a blight that will never go away," Perinchief said. "The punitive effect of a marijuana conviction outweighs the crime. We are not saying the health issue is not still there. But we would like to deal with the treatment rather than the punishment to avoid criminalizing such a large section of the population."

Perinchief spoke to the Gazette following a meeting of the National Steering Committee on Drugs last week where moving to a British-style drug classification scheme was discussed. No word yet on if or when a decision will be made.

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Issue #432 -- 4/21/06

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