DECRIMINALISING cannabis could be considered as part of a wider substance-abuse strategy, according to the Home Affairs Minister.
Deputy Helen Miles said she was not ‘automatically in favour’ of the decriminalisation of the drug, but said that the Island needed ‘some sort of strategy’.
She added: ‘It is something we have to look at. We have to look at the cannabis issue in the entirety of substance misuse.
‘I am very open to looking at the decriminalisation of cannabis within an overall substance strategy.
‘It does seem anomalous that cannabis for recreation might be controlled in a separate way that medicinal cannabis is.’
The minister has also suggested a States debate on decriminalising cannabis in order to understand politicians’ views.
Deputy Miles said: ‘We don’t exist in a bubble. This is out there and we can’t walk on by for this one – we need to have some sort of strategy. However, that does not mean I’m automatically in favour of decriminalisation. If I was, perhaps there would have to be certain circumstances. We don’t want Jersey to be seen as a tourist destination for cannabis.’
Another possibility was creating a citizens’ jury or panel, she said.
Panels were recently used to make recommendations on assisted dying and climate-change legislation.
Deputy Miles said they were a useful tool for deliberating ‘sticky topics’.
A new Drug and Alcohol Strategy has been on the cards for a number of years.
However, it has been delayed because of staffing problems and Deputy Miles could not give an exact date as to when it would be released.
She said: ‘We need to look at other models across the world. There are some states in the US where they let you grow cannabis in your garden and you can smoke it yourself. So there are lots of ways we can do this but I think it is most important that we take everyone’s views into account.’
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, Gregory Guida, who eventually took on the role of Home Affairs Minister, said his position was ‘very much the same’ at the time.
As part of a Freedom of Information response published at the start of the year, Health and Community Services revealed that it did not hold information regarding the number of prescriptions for medicinal cannabis in the Island.
The End Cannabis Prohibition campaign group has called for a Scrutiny review of the use of medicinal cannabis in Jersey, saying there is a ‘massive gap’ in understanding.
Deputy Miles said that research into substance use in the Island and the medicinal cannabis industry was needed in order to help shape future attitudes towards topics such as decriminalisation.
‘As part of developing any substance strategy we need to understand the prevalence of substance use over here,’ she said, ‘looking at things such as the cost of medicinal cannabis.
‘If it is providing relief in the same way that a traditional drug would do, do we need to look at costing models because at the moment it is purely private and it is very expensive.
‘We allowed a medicinal cannabis industry to develop, perhaps without thinking through these issues.’