Committees say no to call for amnesty on cannabis

AN IMMEDIATE cannabis amnesty has been ruled out by the two States committees with responsibility for drugs policy.

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Home Affairs and Health & Social Care have issued a joint statement following calls for one by a local campaign group.

Cannabis was one of the issues in the run-up to last year’s general election, and the Guernsey Drug Strategy Campaign (GDSC) has written to all deputies setting out how an amnesty might operate.

However, Home and HSC are not convinced it would be workable.

‘Regarding the suggestion of an “amnesty”, locally, amnesties have been used very occasionally for strictly limited periods with the aim of removing from circulation potentially dangerous articles, such as bladed weapons or unlicensed firearms.

‘An amnesty allows individuals to hand to the police illegal items which do harm without fear of prosecution, they do not allow individuals to keep and use illegal items that do harm.

‘These amnesties have not been used as a precursor to any potential policy or legislative change, but purely for public safety.

‘An amnesty is not a tool which can be used to suspend sections of the Misuse of Drugs law.

‘It will be for the Assembly ultimately to determine the island’s future approach towards drug possession based on the evidence available to it and it is not in the gift of either committee to pre-empt what this decision might be.’

The GDSC believes that an amnesty would have many benefits, including helping medically vulnerable members of the community, diversifying the economy, and ending the derailment of some young lives, which are suddenly upended by a possession charge.

The previous States agreed last year that steps should be taken to explore options for alternative and non-punitive approaches to the possession and use of small quantities of drugs.

Highlighted in the statement is the need to complete this justice review and the substance use strategy.

‘Societal and legislative approaches towards drug possession and use is a complex area of policy and one which needs to be approached in a considered manner, balancing the need to tackle the harms caused by drugs, supporting people through treatment and recovery as well as restricting their supply.

‘Dialogue with the community will be a key part of this review, including with professions, the third sector, interest groups and the wider public.

‘Additionally, and importantly, it will be informed by the objectives of the maturing combined substance use strategy and both local and international evidence.

‘The strategy is not limited to considering the impact of illegal substances but also prescription medication, alcohol and tobacco.’

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