Medical cannabis: Concerns over lack of regulation

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THE lack of regulation of Jersey’s emerging medical cannabis industry is ‘extremely concerning’ and risks ‘tarnishing’ the Island’s reputation, a Scrutiny panel has said.

A review by the Economic and International Affairs Scrutiny Panel also found that there were ‘blurred lines of accountability’ for the the industry, including a lack of clarity on which minister has responsibility for it and whether the Environment Minister has any role at all.

The panel raised concerns about Jersey not having its own ‘bespoke regulation’ for the industry and instead relying on an ‘inadequate’ memorandum of understanding with the UK Home Office for its framework.

Deputy David Johnson, who chairs the panel, said that regulation should be tightened up to help safeguard Jersey’s reputation.

He said: ‘The cultivation of medicinal cannabis in Jersey is promising as it demonstrates the potential for a thriving new sector within our Island’s economy.

‘However, we wish to ensure that it operates within a strong regulatory framework to encourage investment and enhance Jersey’s strong international reputation.

‘We hope that the Council of Ministers will seriously consider our recommendations as to the implementation of robust levels of regulation.’

He added in his foreword to the report that not improving regulation could ‘tarnish’ the Island’s international reputation.

‘This report sets out to build on what is currently in place and to ensure that the international reputation of Jersey is not tarnished,’ he said.

The panel also raised concerns over the ‘lack of transparency’ on environmental impact assessments in the industry and ‘speculative’ forecasts of tax intake, with revenue likely to ‘remain minimal for several years’.

It also pointed out that the licence fee for the industry was low compared to other jurisdictions and suggested that this ‘raises questions’ over economic viability.

Recommendations made to ministers include developing ‘more coherent cross-departmental working’ and ‘clearly defined lines of ministerial responsibility’, as well as a full business case being required from licence applicants and the licence fee being ‘immediately reviewed’.

At the time the report was written two licences to cultivate medicinal cannabis in Jersey had been granted.

Responding to the review, Economic Development Minister Lyndon Farnham said: ‘Scrutiny’s concerns about regulations and ministerial accountability will be addressed in government’s formal response to their report, but I would say that the regulatory and legislative controls already in place provide a robust foundation, are in line with international standards, and will evolve as the industry develops.

‘This is an important new sector for Jersey, and its benefits include the diversification of our agricultural sector; the development of other high-value businesses, such as the research and development of new cannabinoid medicines; and ultimately the potential for additional revenue for Jersey through taxes and licence fees.

‘I would like to thank Scrutiny for the report. We will be carefully considering all of Scrutiny’s findings and recommendations, and will respond formally in due course.’

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