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Marijuana `so easy to obtain'

By Deidre Stark
Copyright by The Royal Gazette Ltd

Bermuda, January 18, 1999

Nine out of ten schoolchildren who smoke marijuana say it is "easy" to get their hands on the weed, a National Drug Commission survey has revealed.

And obtaining alcohol and tobacco for the youngsters is also no problem.

But Health and Family Services Minister Nelson Bascome insisted the results were a "step forward" since prevention campaigns could now accurately target the most vulnerable students.

Results of the 1997 Schools Survey backed up international studies which concluded that the more access youths had to the drugs the more likely it was that they would indulge in them.

The NDC surveyed 3,434 students of 13 private and public schools between the ages of 11 and 19 in 1997 and has just released the first results - with more findings expected over coming weeks.

Not surprisingly, it also found that older students perceived alcohol, tobacco and marijuana to be more available than younger students.

The youths were asked how hard or easy it would be to get drugs or other substances illegal for them to use like alcohol and cigarettes.

Roughly twice as many students aged between 14 and 16 thought it would be easy to obtain the substances than students between ten and 13.

The survey also found that eight out of every ten students who drank alcohol said it was easily obtained.

In contrast only five in ten who did not indulge in alcohol thought it was easy to get.

Nine out of ten who smoked cigarettes said tobacco was readily available versus only four in ten non-smokers.

With marijuana, almost nine out of every ten users said it was easy to get while only three in ten who weren't dabbling with the illegal drug felt they had access if they wanted it. NDC Prevention Officer Calvin Ming said the findings tied in with internationally endorsed policies regarding drug access.

"That is, if a commodity is easily accessible, there will be an increase in sales," he said.

"Our young people are finding that out and we are in line with other Western countries.

"For example, if we believe that the more cocaine there is on the streets the more it will be used then this will inform our prevention efforts. The same holds for alcohol or any other drug."

Mr. Bascome said his Ministry and the NDC would use the results to "pinpoint" exactly who prevention strategies should target.

"Young males are particularly clearly in need of specific help but at the same time obviously we have to spread the word to everyone," he said. The survey's conclusion that illegal substances were so easy for school children to get was "a concern but not a shock", he said.

And Mr. Bascome insisted the Government was on the verge of progress in the war against drugs since so many Bermudians were worried about it.

"It was one of the big issues on the campaign trail leading up to the election because all over the Island there are pockets of drugs and all the associated problems."

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