Legalising cannabis ‘in islands’ interest’

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Deputy Gavin St Pier said it was ‘inevitable’ that the islands would be forced to ‘re-evaluate’ their stance on the Class B drug following its legalisation for medicinal purposes.

However, Jersey’s Deputy Chief Minister Lyndon Farnham said that a more ‘cautious approach’ was needed before making a decision, but admitted that he would support legalising its use for recreational purposes if the benefits of it had been realised in other jurisdictions.

Last week, during an Ask the Ministers event, Health Minister Richard Renouf said that Jersey had to move with the ‘wider community’ and its ‘British family’ when making a decision on whether to legalise the use of recreational cannabis.

Under Jersey law, cannabis can be prescribed for healthcare purposes.

Deputy St Pier said: ‘As medicinal cannabis is imported, a proportion of that is going to the recreational market and as that continues it will become unsustainable. The same product is legal for medicinal purposes, but illegal for recreational purposes and this will inevitably drive a re-evaluation of the way we look at cannabis. It is unnecessary to put resources into controlling the illegal market when the same product is legal for another use.

‘I have felt for some time that it is in the islands’ interests to adopt a different approach and I think it is only a matter of time before we do so.’

He added: ‘We need to legalise it because that way, just like alcohol and tobacco, you can regulate its quality, who has access to it, its age limit and it gives a much better public health response. Just like the medicinal cannabis industry, you can regulate the market, tax it and turn it into a revenue stream.’

Senator Farnham said that it would be ‘sensible’ to look at the impact of legalising recreational cannabis in other jurisdictions before making a decision.

‘It needs a more cautious approach but if it is proven to be good for society then it is something I would support,’ he said.

‘It is hard to say if we will follow suit, but I am almost certain it is something that will be debated in the next government’s term.’

Senator Farnham added that he was ‘pleased’ that Jersey had begun to develop a ‘thriving medicinal cannabis industry’.

He added: ‘Jersey has always been renowned for its high-quality agricultural products and we have made such progress with medicinal cannabis over here which has allowed us to get a head start on the rest of the world.’

Home Affairs Minister Gregory Guida said it was ‘not impossible’ for the recreational use of cannabis to be legalised in the Island in the future.

Deputy Guida’s predecessor, the late Len Norman, said earlier this year that the decriminalisation of drugs was something that was being looked at as part of an Island drug policy.

Deputy Guida added: ‘The timing has to be right and we have to weigh up the positives and negatives shown in other jurisdictions.

‘While I do not think there is a financial or moral issue, we have to ask ourselves if we want to become a hotspot for drug tourism if nearby jurisdictions do not follow suit.’

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