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Chief Minister: Cannabis café culture not right for Jersey

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AN ‘Amsterdam-style café culture’ in which recreational cannabis could be smoked or consumed legally is not right for Jersey, the Chief Minister has said.

Senator John Le Fondré (24261222)

Senator John Le Fondré made the announcement in response to calls from the Island’s tourism head to consider legalising the class B drug in an effort to boost tourism and the economy.

Visit Jersey chief executive Keith Beecham had said Jersey should consider following in the footsteps of countries such as Canada, or parts of the USA, which were, in his view, to be ‘applauded’ for their liberal attitudes towards the drug. Amsterdam is also well-known for its cannabis tourism – the drug is legal for personal use and sold in many cafés.

But the Chief Minister said during States questions this week that he could not ignore advice of senior medical officials within the government and further afield and said the Island had a reputation to uphold of being ‘safe and well respected’. He said that the prospect of medicinal cannabis being available was ‘fantastic’ but stressed using the drug recreationally was a step too far.

His comments followed a question from St Saviour Constable Sadie Rennard, who asked if Islanders could expect to see an ‘Amsterdam coffee culture of people sitting around St Helier with big smiles and happy faces’. The Constable later stressed that she too did not support the idea of legalising cannabis for recreational use in the Island.

‘I also support a café culture with big smiles and happy faces and I like to think we have that already, but I do not support the café culture of Amsterdam,’ said the Island’s most senior minister. He then told an anecdote about a time he visited Amsterdam for a conference and said it was the first time he had heard an audience asked if anyone had been ‘broken into’ during their stay or had possessions ‘vandalised’.

He added: ‘We have a very safe and well-respected Island... I hope recreational use is a long way away.’

Earlier this month it was announced that Jersey was to start issuing licences to grow medicinal cannabis on the Island.

Several companies have already shown an interest in developing the highly lucrative crop, and Economic Development said that by moving quickly to get production under way Jersey could become a world leader in the emerging market of medicinal cannabis.

The decision to grant licences puts the Island ahead of the UK in an industry which Jersey Hemp science officer Chris Callaghan last year said could net £300 million a year for the economy. It is hoped that planting could begin within a few months, with the first crops harvested later this year.

Jack Maguire

By Jack Maguire
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