Amendment seeks to relax laws on cannabis possession

LAWS covering cannabis possession could be relaxed to allow resources spent on enforcement to instead be used to reduce alcohol abuse and domestic violence, if an amendment by two deputies is approved.

Deputy Jonathan Le Tocq. (Picture by Adrian Miller, 28441140)
Deputy Jonathan Le Tocq. (Picture by Adrian Miller, 28441140)

Deputies Jonathan Le Tocq and Laurie Queripel have submitted the amendment to the Justice Review Report, which is set to be debated next week.

If approved, Home Affairs will have to liaise with Health & Social Care and then submit a policy letter by 31 July 2021, after investigating and consulting on the idea.

The law would need to be changed to allow it to be possessed and used for medical, health and wellbeing purposes.

Deputy Le Tocq said the recent pandemic had highlighted the strain put on States resources, so now was a good time to look at those resources and how they were best used.

‘I don’t believe in total de-criminalisation or legalisation,’ he said.

‘But I do think the way we have been doing it for years is not appropriate and it’s not a good use of our resources.’

He said Guernsey used a lot of resources to track and imprison islanders for personal possession of cannabis.

‘It seems to me these would be better used to tackle some of the more serious issues we have got, which we are not so good at handling,’ he said.

Deputy Le Tocq said he had been preparing to put a requete on the topic to the States earlier this year and had garnered a good level of support.

However, that had been put on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic disruption.

This has made him hopeful that the States would back his amendment, which is about reviewing the ideas.

He had previously planned not to stand again, but he said he had changed his mind and hoped he would be back to see the debate next year, if the States backs this amendment.

‘I would have liked to have the debate earlier,’ he said.

‘I think the requete would have allowed for that. But we have been waiting for the report from Health & Social Care on the drug strategy, which we have still not had yet.’

Work on the review started in 2018, but was paused in early 2020 to allow Guernsey’s public health to focus on responding to the coronavirus pandemic. Stakeholder and public engagement should now take place early in the next electoral term.

Home Affairs member Victoria Oliver has recently got into conflict with her board over her views about how cannabis law enforcement has been handled.

Giving her personal view, she said she would be backing the amendment, as it would give them a chance to discuss the issue. She also noted that it was an important time to listen to people’s views and she felt this amendment was setting the right tone.

‘It’s a pragmatic approach,’ she said.

She said that she had never used drugs, but since becoming a deputy she had become aware of how many people wanted the rules to be changed.

However, she added that the Justice Review Report covered a lot of very important issues, which also needed to be discussed and she did not wish the amendment to overshadow these.

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