Cannabis call deserves consideration

FORMER chief minister Gavin St Pier is no stranger to controversy and it’s fair to say his latest incarnation – to use a historical 'term of endearment' of one deputy – as a ‘gadfly’ of the establishment often raises eyebrows.

So his latest headline, calling for recreational cannabis to be legalised, was dismissed in some quarters as another ‘there he goes again’ moment.

The suggestion, however, deserves consideration. Like it or not, the island has hitched its wagon to making money from cannabis production and authorised its use for medicinal purposes. In just a year, more than 3,000 licences have been granted.

As Deputy St Pier observes, this dichotomy of banning one sort of use while encouraging another will inevitably lead to a re-evaluation of the island’s attitude to the drug. Jersey, too, is in a similar position and a coordinated, Channel Island approach to this would be sensible.

Islanders will rightly want to take a cautious approach to any liberalisation, but that does not demand it be a timid one.

As Deputy St Pier argues, ‘just like the medicinal cannabis industry, you can regulate the market, tax it, and turn it into a revenue stream,’ – and the island needs revenue.

Guernsey’s ‘war against drugs’ has been enormously costly, at best only partially successful, and recreational use of cannabis remains part of some islanders’ chosen lifestyle. Recognising this, and having a sober re-assessment of whether that status quo remains in the community's best interests, is sensible and pragmatic.

The question is whether such an open-minded review could credibly be led by Home Affairs, which for so long has pursued individuals for the recreational use of the drug.

The committee is looking at the issue as part of a justice review. But in this instance it may be beneficial if any reappraisal was opened to independent consideration, and those findings reported to the Assembly with recommendations.

Whether the States will genuinely explore if the island can benefit from relaxing its approach on cannabis remains to be seen.

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