Deputy argues for rethink about legalising cannabis
DECRIMINALISING and carefully regulating recreational-cannabis use in Jersey would ensure strong forms of the class B-drug were kept out of use and away from young people, according to a Deputy.
Legalising recreational-cannabis use in the UK has become a topic of conversation again this week after a group of cross-party MPs travelled to Canada on a fact-finding trip.
Following the visit to Canada, which became the first G7 country to allow recreational use of the drug in 2018, the MPs predicted the UK would fully legalise cannabis use within five to ten years.
In Jersey, it became legal to prescribe medicinal cannabis last year, and cultivation of the drug was legalised this year.
St Lawrence Deputy Kirsten Morel believes there are several positives that would come from allowing recreational use in the Island.
He said: ‘I’m currently in the US where it’s interesting to see legalisation in California and Nevada that is based on strong regulation rather than criminalisation. It’s clear that the States are seeking to benefit from the taxation and business benefits of legalisation.
‘By regulating use, Jersey would be better positioned to ensure strong forms of cannabis are kept out of use and away from young people who are most susceptible to the harm that cannabis can cause.
‘Jersey is likely to follow the UK but should look at its whole attitude to drugs and should begin to look at them as a health issue rather than a criminal issue as Portugal has done.
‘There does seem to be a strong momentum towards legalisation and perhaps Jersey should look at decriminalisation rather than spending money prosecuting people for a substance that has fewer negative effects than alcohol.
‘Whether the Island will go down this route within ten years, I honestly don’t know.’
Fellow Deputy Kevin Pamplin also believes the time will come for recreational use to become legal, but said a lot of things needed to be done before that could happen.
He added: ‘A number of countries are wrestling with the issue now, and I think it will happen but it is not something that can happen just like that.
‘I think a lot of aspects need to be considered for it to be regulated. There will be sceptics but things are changing.
‘It needs to be done for the right reasons, and a lot of things will need to be looked at, but I do think it will happen here in the future.’
Other States Members were not so sure about the matter though.
Deputy Lindsay Ash express concern that it could lead to Jersey becoming a cannabis-smoking weekend destination.
He added: ‘I can’t see it being legalised but I don’t think you can say never as other countries have done it.
‘If you did it here it would have a huge amount of tax on it probably, and it would probably be the most expensive cannabis in the world.
‘I don’t think it would be a good thing.
‘There would still be a black market for it. You look at cigarettes and the way they are taxed. We already see people trying to smuggle in illegal tobacco and cigarettes.
‘I’m not sure it would be the right way to go. If the UK didn’t do it and we did, we would become some sort of weekend destination where people would come to get stoned and I don’t think that is a good idea.’
And International Development Minister Carolyn Labey said she wanted the medicinal use resolved before anything else.
She added: ‘Before we even look at recreational use, I would like to see the medicinal-use issue resolved, because at the moment doctors are saying no.
‘It is a very big subject when it comes to leisure use. If you got a blank piece of paper with alcohol use and cannabis use on it, I am not sure it would be clear which one is which.
‘I would like to see more focus on sorting the medicinal use before we even looked at the leisure idea.’
A spokeswoman for the States said: ‘Jersey has started to issue licences to grow medicinal cannabis and the States Assembly agreed last year that all medical professionals should be able to prescribe medicinal cannabis products.
‘The government has no plans to change the law on the use of cannabis for recreational purposes.’
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