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Opposition leader says he ‘cured’ daughter’s asthma with ganja tea

Tuesday, June 03, 2014    

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HAMILTON, Bermuda (CMC) — Opposition Leader Marc Bean has come under fire from a leading children's rights advocate after admitting he gave his then-young daughter "ganja tea" to treat her asthma.

The advocate, Sheelagh Cooper, said she was shocked by Bean's statement in the House of Assembly.

Speaking during a take-note motion in the House on the report of the Cannabis Reform Collaborative to potential changes to the island's policy on marijuana, Bean said he had in the past used marijuana medicinally for both himself and his family.

Bean called for the legalisation of marijuana with a "light touch" of regulation, saying the taxation of cannabis could bring in more than US$20 million in tax revenue, provide a boost in tourism and create entrepreneurial opportunities.

Kicking off the marathon debate earlier, Premier Michael Dunkley, who is also national security minister, said the One Bermuda Alliance Government has no plans to legalise marijuana, claiming that "it is wrong to yield to a more permissive attitude socially without due regard to the social, economic and health consequences".

"Medicinal use, as far as I'm concerned, I don't need too much scientific evidence," Bean told the House on Friday night.

"When my daughter was three years old, because of the circumstances I didn't have much opportunity to spend time with her up until she reached about two-and-a-half, three, but I always was told she suffers from asthma severely.

"The first opportunity I had my daughter, who's now going on 20 years old, in my care and custody I went and made her a big cup of ganja tea. That was when she was two-and-a-half, three years old.

"Now some of you might be saying 'that's irresponsible as a parent', but you can go ask her mother and her family on her mother's side today. 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."

Bean said he also made his father "ganja tea" to remedy his insomnia. "This is a person who is in his late 70s, who hadn't slept well in 20 years," he said.

"Finally, thanks to a cup of tea, he was able to sleep and rest for the first time in 20 years. So I don't need empirical evidence to see the value of cannabis in terms of the healing of one's physical temple, or one's body."

Cooper, who heads the Coalition for the Protection of Children, said she was shocked and appalled by Bean's comments about giving his daughter "cannabis tea", saying the statement left her at a loss for words.

"It sort of takes my breath away," she said. "Assuming that the active ingredients of cannabis are in this tea, that is not only illegal in Bermuda but, to my standpoint, it's very questionable as to any medical benefit for a child.

"I'm astounded that anyone would give something like that to a child without an extensive amount of research behind it as to the effects on a developing child, and to my knowledge that doesn't exist. That, to me, becomes a child protection issue. I'm appalled that he would give something like that to a child of that age. I'm virtually speechless."

Meanwhile, former Health Minister Patricia Gordon-Pamplin disclosed during the House debate that she granted permission for cannabinoid

oil to be brought to the

island last year for cancer treatment for a Bermudian after being approached by the patient's family.

"As the minister of health, it fell upon me to decide whether I was going to approve the importation of cannabinoid oil," she said.

"There were hoops and bells and whistles that had to be overcome in order to make that decision, and while the legislation says no, this is illegal, it cannot be imported, I looked at it from a perspective that if there was any way that there was a possibility to allow this individual to have the cannabinoid oil that was going to give him comfort, there's no way, as the minister of health, I was going to block it.

"I signed off to approve it, as I believe any person with good conscience would have done, because under those circumstances I was not prepared to be the one to play God, to decide whether someone's comfort was going to be 'yes' or 'no' at my pen. And I decided that if his doctor decided it was appropriate, his family decided it was appropriate and he himself decided that this was giving him comfort, then there's no way I could do anything other than support that."

She said the system at the time required the support of the chief medical officer, the police department and customs in order to bring the oil into Bermuda for the patient.

Gordon-Pamplin, now works minister, said the patient was eventually able to get the oil, and while he has since died, she was grateful that he was able to receive a modicum of comfort in his final days.

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