Large drop in prosecutions for possession of cannabis

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THE number of Islanders prosecuted for cannabis possession has significantly declined over the past five years, according to data released by the government.

Twenty-three Islanders have been sanctioned for possession of the Class B drug this year (up to 28 September), compared with 66 in the whole of 2021 and 113 in 2017.

The punishments incurred include cautions, fines, probation, being bound over, imprisonment, words of advice, community service and an ‘other’ category.

The number of written cautions for possession of cannabis this year so far is nine, compared with 36 written cautions in 2021 and 72 in 2018.

The data formed part of a response from Home Affairs Minister Helen Miles to a States written question from Deputy Sam Mézec.

A recent Freedom of Information request also revealed that the number of convictions for class B drugs, which includes cannabis, in 2021 had almost halved when compared with 2020 – falling from 65 to 35. Class A drug convictions also fell by almost a quarter – from 30 in 2020 to eight in 2021.

Simon Harrison, co-ordinator for the End Cannabis Prohibition Jersey campaign group, said he believed the reduction in prosecutions and convictions could be due to the growth of the medicinal cannabis industry in the Island.

‘Formerly, people would have resorted to black market cannabis if they wanted to obtain it for medical reasons. But now people can get it legally prescribed to them,’ he said.

Deputy Mézec also asked about the cost of prosecutions in his written question.

Deputy Miles responded: ‘Unfortunately, it is not possible to accurately determine the exact cost of above sanctions.

‘Responsible agencies vary depending on the severity of the case, with some simple personal possession offences dealt with via Parish Hall inquiry, while more serious offences alongside other charges or repeat offences are typically dealt with by court.’

Deputy Mézec recently said it was a ‘waste of police resources’ to continue prosecuting Islanders for possessing cannabis and called for it to be decriminalised – meaning that the drug would still be prohibited by law, but an individual could not be prosecuted or criminalised for carrying a certain amount.

Currently, if you are caught with less than 15g of cannabis or cannabis resin, it is dealt with at a parish hall inquiry by way of a written caution for a first offence and a second offence, if more than a year has passed since the first. Subsequent offences and offences involving amounts over 15g will result in a court appearance.

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