Pubdate: Fri, 01 Sep 2006
Source: Royal Gazette, The (Bermuda)
Copyright: 2006 The Royal Gazette Ltd.
Author: Matthew Taylor
Bookmark: (Marijuana)
Bookmark: (Decrim/Legalization)
Bookmark: (Treatment)


National Drug Control Minister Wayne Perinchief has been defeated in 
his bid to downgrade cannabis offences.

He had hoped to win Cabinet approval for a law change which would see 
small-scale first-time cannabis users dealt with outside the courts 
and helped to rehabilitate.

However, he told The Royal Gazette: "It's become a controversial 
issue because some people correlate reclassification with 
decriminalisation. That's not true.

"It was always to be an arrestable offence, however, instead of 
getting a punitive sentence you will get a rehabilitative sentence 
for certain classes of drugs."

He had floated the plan in April but has now had to re-think in light 
of strong opposition.

"At this stage it isn't being considered because there is a lot of resistance."

Asked if the opposition was at the Cabinet level, he said: "There was 
global resistance. I am disappointed."

The reclassification approach has been taken in the UK and some of 
the Caribbean Islands as authorities concentrate efforts on the 
scourge of hard drugs.

Mr. Perinchief had hoped the move would reduce the numbers of young 
black males being put on the US immigration stop list and denied 
educational and work opportunities due to minor convictions. However, 
he now hopes to use current laws to bring about the same goal by 
encouraging courts to take a different line.

"The legislation is already in place right now - magistrates have the 
discretion to do it or not," said Mr. Perinchief.

"I will deal with it a different way - through alternatives to incarceration.

"I will try to do more collaboration between the judiciary and this 
ministry and the departments of Health and Public Safety." He said 
small-scale drug use should be considered a health problem to help 
reduce some of the stigma discouraging addicts trying to recover.

The Minister hopes Bermuda's widespread drug problem can be targeted 
through random testing in the workplace and he hopes to have Police, 
Customs, the civil service and Prison officers all signed up to 
random testing by the end of the year.

Already bus drivers and Marine and Ports staff are subject to the 
tests. Those caught will be given help to kick their habit rather 
than fired, although Mr. Perinchief said recreational users are a big 
part of Bermuda's drug problem. He took heart from the way tobacco 
use was driven out of the workplace, helping bring about a cultural 
change which almost makes smoking taboo. "Ninety percent of smokers 
butted out."

September has been designated National Alcohol and Drug Recovery 
Month in Bermuda. National Drug Control Minister Wayne Perinchief 
hopes it increases awareness of alcohol and drug recovery issues.

"We want to show how society benefits by offering treatment options 
for alcohol and drug use disorders," the Minister said.

"We also believe it's important to highlight the excellent 
contributions and services offered by the drug and alcohol treatment 
providers in our community. "And, we want to promote the message that 
recovery is possible - no matter what the alcohol or drug use disorder."

The month will promote access to recovery and to celebrate those who 
are in treatment. 
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