Rob Prow has responded to comments made by Economic Development president Charles Parkinson recently, who said that in his view it was time to explore the idea of legalising cannabis and that not many people would be bothered if it was.
His comments followed the approval for the growing locally of a form of cannabis for medicinal use.
Deputy Prow, a former head of the Guernsey Border Agency, said he was surprised at Deputy Parkinson’s comments and could not let them go unchallenged.
He said he supported exploring the medicinal use of any controlled drug, including cannabis, providing there was evidence that a pharmaceutical version could have a benefit effect.
He also supported a well-regulated local industry that carries out research and development into the many active ingredients of the cannabis plant.
‘However, doing anything to promote the recreational use of any controlled drug, including cannabis, is in my view plain wrong,’ he said.
Referring to Health & Social Care’s partnership of purpose initiative, he said that a major plank of this was to stop medical conditions developing and where possible to reduce mental health issues where they are caused by high-risk lifestyles.
This would include taking steps to prevent issues caused by alcohol, tobacco and substance misuse.
‘Calling for cannabis use to be legalised sends a clear message, especially to young people, that to use cannabis recreationally is now a safe practice,’ said Deputy Prow. ‘It is not.’
He cites the NHS Your Health – Your Choices website which states that cannabis can be harmful to people’s lungs since it contains carcinogens that increase the risk of lung cancers.
Plus he said research has shown that cannabis can be addictive if used regularly, with users building up a tolerance to it and so requiring more to get the same effects.
He said research also showed that the drug can harm mental health, cause infertility and harm a baby’s brain development, and seriously affect someone’s ability to drive and operate machinery.
The head of Jersey Tourism has suggested that the economy could benefit from the legalisation of the drug.
‘Drug tourism? I think a great deal of local people would be very “bothered” by this prospect,’ said Deputy Prow.
While Deputy Parkinson said he believed most people would not use cannabis if it was legalised, Deputy Prow said he also seemed to think that if the island’s controlled drug legislation was unilaterally dismantled allowing the recreational use of cannabis it could kick-start an industry.
Deputy Prow said this confused him: ‘As night follows day, cannabis use would rise considerably,’ he said.
And, wondered Deputy Prow, would these visitors be content with simply smoking in ‘cannabis cafes’, or would they look for other entertainment?
He said Portugal has a massive drug problem, with cocaine and heroin deaths per head of population among the highest in Europe. HIV infection was also high, with the underlying cause being attributed to intravenous drug use.
Costs to the country’s taxpayers were huge, he said, yet it was still illegal there to possess, import, export and supply cannabis.
‘Happily at the moment we do not currently have anyway near the same levels of drug issues as other jurisdictions,’ said Deputy Prow.
‘On average, a heroin drug death occurs in the UK every five hours. In Guernsey this is a very rare event indeed.’