The government will consider the results of a recent drug survey as it considers prospective cannabis reform, according to the minister of National Security.

The survey, released by the Department for National Drug Control earlier this month, questioned 1,200 residents of the island.

The survey indicated 48 per cent of those polled favoured decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana for personal use by people over the age of 18.

More than 41 per cent did not support such a proposal, while nine per cent said they did not know whether they supported it or didn’t care.

More than 22 per cent of the respondents admitted to using marijuana in their lifetime; only five per cent said they had used in the past year and three per cent during the last month.

Specifically, one in five of the respondents have used marijuana in their lifetime, 5.2 per cent have used it in the last year and less than four per cent have used marijuana in the last 30 days.

Additionally, 36 per cent of the respondents said there was easy access to marijuana on the island.

The Cannabis Reform Collaborative, which is the task force assigned to study the issue, is scheduled to report its findings to government in coming weeks. Now, National Security Minister Michael Dunkley says, “The recent survey contains some important data and its results will form part of the body of information to which the Government has regard when finalizing the policy with respect to cannabis in Bermuda. 

“The Government’s commitment in November’s Throne Speech was to ‘produce a public consultation paper on the decriminalization of marijuana and an examination of its wider uses’. We are making progress on delivering on that commitment.” 

The survey also indicated that 28 per cent of males and 28 per cent of females surveyed currently drink alcohol. Alcohol remains the substance of choice among Bermuda’s adults.

Joanne Dean, director for the Department for National Drug Control, said there already have been amendments made to the Liquor Licensing Act to cut down on underage drinking on the island. Establishing roadside sobriety checkpoints is also being discussed, she said.

But are there really only five percent of the population who have smoked marijuana in the last year?

Depends on whom you ask. Ms. Dean points out that there are “certainly limitations, which are clearly delineated in the report”.

‘Skewing the numbers’

Nonetheless, she said, “the estimates are the best available data using a statistically sound methodology. In these types of (studies) respondents tend to underestimate their use but even still these estimates indicate some level of use which needs to be addressed... we cannot overemphasize that these are statistically sound estimates and are better evidence than conclusions based on perceptions.”

Martha Dismont, the executive director of the Family Centre, is among those who feel there may be “an accepted cultural norm that is skewing the numbers”.

She acknowledged, “the numbers seem relatively low to the experience that we have had with the population. It may be more acceptable to hide it than acknowledge it.”

“I believe if the respondents answered those questions relative to what they believed is acceptable, the number would be higher,” she said. “I actually believe that the “halo effect” in this instance would be that respondents believe that you shouldn’t admit the usage.”