Home Affairs member leads bid to stop cannabis review

A BID to stop a review of the legal status of cannabis at next week’s States meeting has been made by a member of the Home Affairs Committee.

Deputy Andrew Taylor. (Picture by Peter Frankland, 30954599)
Deputy Andrew Taylor. (Picture by Peter Frankland, 30954599)

Deputy Andrew Taylor, with the backing of Deputy David Mahoney, is leading an amendment to the Government Work Plan debate to ensure the controversial move, promoted by Health & Social Care, is taken off the table.

‘The proposition to scope the legal status of cannabis does not recognise the breadth of this work or the potential impact that scoping will have on other committees and has the potential to divert resources aware from work already prioritised by the assembly and contained in the Government Work Plan,’ they said.

Any chance of considering decriminalising cannabis as part of a sentencing review agreed in 2020 has already been rejected and the deputies say that there are a number of considerations that weigh against the review, including:

. the health risks of cannabis use;

. the problems a previous resolution was trying to solve they say ‘barely exist’, in that people convicted of possession of a small amount of cannabis are not routinely sent to prison;

. exploring a change to the legal status of cannabis would be complicated, risky and resource-intensive; and

. jurisdictions which have liberalised cannabis laws are seeing adverse impacts.

The deputies have justified their argument with an 11-page dossier from Home Affairs which seeks to back up their case, including detailing non-punitive ways of dealing with cannabis possession in the Bailiwick and misperceptions in the community relating to these outcomes.

Statistics collated by the prison showed that from 2019 to June 2021, there were no individuals given custodial sentences for possession of cannabis as a standalone offence.

Local figures on illegal cannabis use have not been collected since 2018 but at that point 11% of people had used cannabis in the past 12 months, compared to just 5% five years previously.

Some 6% of the island population have sought a prescription for medicinal cannabis and with prescriptions allegedly being diverted for local sale, the island’s drug problems are being made worse, the committee said.

‘There are concerns that the further widening of the availability of cannabis on-island through decriminalisation or legalisation would increase the risk that cannabis becomes more available to acquisition by children and young people,' the note said.

The deputies also feared potential reputational risks of legalising cannabis in Guernsey, including to the island’s standing in the global finance sector and other businesses, or the impact it would have on tourism.

‘Any consideration of changes to long-standing, agreed laws, policies and international agreements could have serious ramifications for these vital external relationships,’ it said.

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