Concerns raised over impact of cannabis industry

CONCERNS have been raised about how the medicinal-cannabis industry could affect the Island’s character and countryside – with the prospect of security fences being installed along country lanes.

Environment Minister John Young. Picture: DAVID FERGUSON.
Environment Minister John Young. Picture: DAVID FERGUSON.

Environment Minister John Young and officers from his department this week answered questions from the Economic and International Affairs Scrutiny Panel about the environmental implications of growing cannabis for medical use.

Deputy Young stressed that any development should be carried out sensitively and should not impact on the Island’s ‘beautiful countryside’.

Speaking at the meeting on Thursday, he said: ‘Many States Members, and many members of the public, have raised quite a number of challenging questions about the impact of this industry.’

Concerns include the risk of smell or light pollution from cannabis farms, and the visual impact of mandatory security fences around them.

The minister said: ‘There will definitely be conflicts. People don’t feel comfortable with something that changes the nature and character of Jersey’s beautiful countryside.

‘Quality of life, social concerns and the environment are very much my focus and, with whatever we do in agriculture, we have to become more sustainable.

‘There are places where development is okay and there are places where it’s not. I don’t want to see the Island bespoiled and I won’t allow it on my watch.’

As previously reported in the JEP, the Scrutiny panel heard from Health Minister Richard Renouf and health officials earlier in the week, and were told that every cannabis-growing operation would have to produce an Environmental Impact Assessment.

But at Thursday’s meeting the panel was told that EIAs were the responsibility of the Environment Department, not Health – and that environment officers had so far not seen any EIAs relating to cannabis growers.

The panel’s chairman, Deputy David Johnson, suggested EIA reports could allay some of the worries.

He said: ‘If there was an EIA in its proper form, it may go a long way to educate the public about what is going on.’

Meanwhile, Scott Meadows, head of biosecurity at the Environment Department, said the medicinal-cannabis industry could bring increased technology into horticulture, with the prospect of more highly skilled jobs in the Island.

He added: ‘In the next few years, the NHS looks likely to become the biggest customer for medicinal cannabis in Europe, if not the world.

‘That’s why people want to grow it here. If Jersey doesn’t fill that market, somebody else will.’

In recent months, several applications to grow cannabis for medicinal use have been approved in Jersey. It is believed the industry could generate millions of pounds for the Island in the coming years.

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