Cannabis laws: New States ‘could be more progressive’

End Cannabis Prohibition group members (from left) Alex Bealey, Daniel Woosnam, James Bedding, Jayne Christie and Simon Harrison Picture: DAVID FERGUSON

THE next States Assembly could be the most progressive yet on reforming cannabis laws, with a campaign group claiming that more than two-thirds of election candidates are likely to support relaxing legislation.

Simon Harrison, co-ordinator for End Cannabis Prohibition Jersey, said it was ‘crucial’ that the Island’s next government took a forward-thinking approach, adding that there was a ‘blank slate here with the new candidates’.

Mr Harrison said that 14 of the candidates they had met so far were supportive of either decriminalising or legalising cannabis, and 53 were receptive to a ‘progressive’ approach – meaning they or their party would potentially support some type of reform to current laws. He added that two candidates were opposed to cannabis reform based upon their interactions, or recent public statements.

The group, which was formed in May 2020, has not yet met all 93 candidates.

Mr Harrison said the government did not have a ‘clear picture’ of what was going on in the Island, and suggested a government or Scrutiny review once the States reconvened.

Concerns have also been raised by Mr Harrison over the high costs of a repeat medicinal-cannabis prescription, saying that Islanders were being forced to choose between food, heating, electricity or their medicine. End Cannabis Prohibition Jersey has set out five key recommendations which it would like to see implemented by the Assembly throughout the next term of office.

They include the decriminalisation of possession of personal quantities of cannabis and an investigation into the eventual legalisation of the drug.

Decriminalisation would mean the drug is still prohibited by law, but an individual cannot be prosecuted or criminalised for carrying a certain amount, whereas legalisation means that the once-banned substance becomes permissible by law and carries no penalty.

A number of countries have either decriminalised or legalised the drug, including Thailand, which became the first country in Asia to legalise the cultivation of cannabis last week.

Last year, the late Home Affairs Minister Len Norman said that the decriminalisation of drugs was something ‘we wanted to look at’.

His assistant minister at the time, Deputy Gregory Guida, who is the current Home Affairs Minister, said his position was ‘very much the same’ at the time.

Mr Harrison said: ‘Decriminalisation should only ever be seen as a stop-gap.

‘You stop the criminal penalties, which is fantastic, as it is ridiculous that you get tarred with a life-long criminal record which could stop you travelling and prevent job opportunities.

‘Legalisation allows you to put in age controls, expulsion of criminal records, appropriate taxation, but not too much that the black market still flourishes.’

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