Presently, drug legislation is coordinated globally by the UN Conventions on narcotic drugs and psychoactive substances.
The UK has ratified these conventions, which in turn have been extended to Jersey and the other Crown Dependencies.
A report commissioned by Guernsey's Committee for Health & Social Care in 2020 explored
"the interaction between the Health and Justice Systems with respect to drug use" and confirmed that decriminalisation is
"compatible with international drug control Conventions".
If Jersey were to change the law and be in contravention of these Conventions, the UK government could face sanctions for the Island's failure to comply with the terms of the Conventions.
Notably, those countries that have introduced the legalisation of cannabis on the basis of concerns for health and welfare have not received sanctions from the International Narcotics Control Board.
Consideration would also be needed to address the Island's place within the Common Travel Area, as Customs controls may be required between Jersey and the rest of the CTA should cannabis be legalised here first.
It will therefore likely be complicated for Jersey to unilaterally legalise cannabis without the support of the UK, revision of the UN Conventions and/or inter se treaty modification.
The complexity of implementing successful and appropriate cannabis regulation should not however prevent research, planning and consultation for the future legalisation of cannabis.
Given the rising number of countries and states that have either implemented cannabis legalisation or plan to do so in the near future, it is simply a matter of time before other jurisdictions - including the UK and the Channel Islands - follow suit:
"We are on a journey which has started and on which it has already been recognised that cannabis has many advantages for our island communities – new industries and skills, new sources of taxation and new prescription drugs. The only coherent and logical destination is to recognise that 60 years of prohibition has failed and cannot continue alongside a legal supply of pharmaceutical-grade cannabis products. Like it or not, we will end up treating recreational cannabis in the same way as alcohol or tobacco: it can’t be successfully banned, so we will legalise, regulate and tax it. And the quicker we get to that conclusion the better."
Deputy Gavin St Pier, previous Guernsey Chief Minister,
The islands are on a journey with cannabis – the sooner we reach the destination, the better for all, December 2021
Notably, the States of Deliberation in Guernsey has recently resolved to undertake the scoping work for a review of the legal status of cannabis as part of their Government Work Plan. The Mayor of London has launched the London Drugs Commission to examine the regulation of drugs with an emphasis on cannabis, and the Isle of Man Government has also committed to undertaking a review of the harms caused by illegal drugs with a particular focus on cannabis.
- The next Government should proactively cooperate with the UK Home Office, the London Drugs Commission, the Bailiwick of Guernsey and the Isle of Man Government on the issue of cannabis legalisation in order that an acceptable path forward can be established.
Cannabis legalisation cannot be implemented overnight - it will take time to establish how best to regulate cannabis in Jersey.
There are many issues that need to be addressed as part of cannabis legal reform, including:
- Public health implications.
- The expungement of criminal records relating to cannabis possession.
- An appropriate - but not excessive - level of taxation.
- Regulatory requirements for an adult-use market.
- Government should investigate the legalisation of cannabis in Jersey in preparation for future reform, utilising research of international approaches, consultation and possibly a Citizen's Assembly to discern the model for reform best suited for the Island and it's people.
The coming years will see more and more countries in Europe and around the world legalise and regulate cannabis.
"We are in the middle of a global cannabis revolution."
Professor David Nutt,
Cannabis (Seeing Through the Smoke), 2022
Jersey can either be a bystander to these developments, or we can choose to be at the forefront of jurisdictions that take a progressive approach to cannabis, and in so doing truly demonstrate our commitment to being a
"centre of excellence".
- The incoming Government should consider introducing legislation to legalise cannabis before the end of the next term, with appropriate regulations in place to satisfy the needs and concerns of Islanders.