Election manifestos show deputies could back cannabis law change

THE States could back some changes to the legal status of cannabis this week, if manifesto commitments can be taken as a guide.

Deputy Tina Bury, now vice-president of HSC, commenting on the justice system’s sentencing of cannabis offences, and what their stances were regarding the legalisation and regulation of cannabis on Guernsey in her election manifesto said: ‘I think we should at least de-criminalise possession of small amounts of cannabis for personal use. (Picture by Sidney Prosser, 30975723)
Deputy Tina Bury, now vice-president of HSC, commenting on the justice system’s sentencing of cannabis offences, and what their stances were regarding the legalisation and regulation of cannabis on Guernsey in her election manifesto said: ‘I think we should at least de-criminalise possession of small amounts of cannabis for personal use. (Picture by Sidney Prosser, 30975723)

The Guernsey Press revisited questions raised and answered on the official 2020 election website asking if candidates would support changes in the law to make cannabis legal for personal use.

They were also asked to comment on the justice system’s sentencing of cannabis offences, and what their stances were regarding the legalisation and regulation of cannabis on Guernsey.

Although some answers were nuanced or not particularly clear, we can work out that more than half of Guernsey deputies – Alderney representatives in the States were not involved – were supportive of the medicinal use of cannabis.

More than half were again supportive towards looking again at the way cannabis is regulated.

And about 40% were open to some form of legalisation of the Class B drug for personal use.

Licensed use of medicinal cannabis was agreed upon for 2020 by the States, with licences for growing and production following.

The big States debate on whether Health & Social Care should begin scoping work to review the legal status of cannabis is expected before the week is over.

The only deputies who offered unequivocal rejection of any relaxation on cannabis were Steve Falla, David De Lisle, and Rob Prow.

Some deputies appeared to be either open to the discussion of relaxing restrictions, or supportive of de-criminalising cannabis in certain cases.

The views stated in manifestos range from firm rejections of cannabis for recreational use, to open support for legalising the drug.

Deputy Tina Bury, now vice-president of HSC, said: ‘I think we should at least de-criminalise possession of small amounts of cannabis for personal use.

‘If we can regulate, then I would most likely support legalisation.'

Deputy Marc Leadbeater, also a director of a local cannabis cultivation firm and the deputy who has pushed most strongly for the review, stated that Guernsey should move toward de-criminalisation of cannabis for personal use in small quantities.

‘Changing the culture of reliance on prescription medication will play an important role in reshaping policy, and so will ending the prohibition of cannabis.’

Deputy Leadbeater referenced Amsterdam and Canada as examples of how legalising cannabis can see youth consumption fall drastically.

‘We have the evidence now to base our policy on,’ he said.

‘We can use the experiences of our Commonwealth cousins in Canada, and shape our policy to enable us to educate our young people and protect them from the harm that drugs can bring. Education and regulation is the only way we can achieve this.’

Many others were uncertain – some were keen to push for a review on sentencing policy, others less so about legalising the drug for personal use.

Chief Minister Peter Ferbrache said: ‘I certainly would not prosecute people for possession of small amounts. The wider issue of whether you legalise cannabis needs very careful thought. We need to look at the wider consequences.’

Proposer and seconder of an amendment to block any review, Deputies Andrew Taylor and David Mahoney, appeared to hold slightly different views.

Deputy Taylor, now a member of Home Affairs, said he supported a ‘proper investigation’ of the legalisation and regulation of cannabis.

Deputy Mahoney said he supported medicinal use of cannabis ‘without hesitation’.

‘I remain unconvinced that the time is right to legalise its recreational use,’ he added.

‘However one of the duties of a deputy is to listen to proper and sensible reasoned arguments, and I would be willing to do so.’

That appears to be a stance that others may be tempted to follow this week.

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