The Channel Islands are already ahead of the UK in capitalising on the liberation of cannabis. And they may stretch that lead as the legalisation of recreational cannabis could be on the cards in the near future.
Guernsey Deputy Gavin St Pier recently said it was ‘inevitable’ that the islands would be forced to ‘re-evaluate’ their stance on the Class B drug due to the success of the country’s flourishing medical cannabis and hemp/CBD industries.
“It is unnecessary to put resources into controlling the illegal market when the same product is legal for another use,” he said.
‘We need to legalise it because that way, just like alcohol and tobacco, you can regulate its quality, who has access to it, its age limit and it gives a much better public health response.
“Just like the medicinal cannabis industry, you can regulate the market, tax it and turn it into a revenue stream.
“I have felt for some time that it is in the islands’ interests to adopt a different approach and I think it is only a matter of time before we do so.”
Channel Islands’ less restrictive laws
The Channel Islands have pretty much the same drug laws as the UK mainland, so cannabis is considered a class B drug.
However, a thriving medical cannabis industry, particularly in Jersey – where a number of medical cannabis clinics opened – and a relaxation of hemp (low-THC cannabis) laws has brought further reforms to the forefront of lawmaker’s minds.
In 2017, the first licence in over one hundred years was given to Jersey Hemp to grow hemp for CBD. The company is allowed to process the whole plant, including the cannabinoid-rich flower, unlike hemp farmers in the UK.
In Guernsey it’s also possible to apply for a license to grow and process low-THC hemp plants. Rather than a 0.2% THC limit as we have in the UK and EU, growers in Guernsey can have THC levels up to 3% of the total CBD percentage. This caveat allows for higher CBD percentages than is achievable with a 0.2% THC limit.
Not everyone is so keen on recreational cannabis in the Channel Islands, however. Jersey’s Deputy Chief Minister Lyndon Farnham said that a more ‘cautious approach’ was needed, but did admit that he would support legalising recreational cannabis if the benefits of it had been proven in other jurisdictions.
Senator Farnham also praised Jersey’s reputation for its high-quality agricultural products and its progress with medicinal cannabis, “which has allowed us to get a head start on the rest of the world.”
Home Affairs Minister Gregory Guida said it was ‘not impossible’ for the recreational use of cannabis to be legalised in the Island in the future.
Sometimes it takes smaller, more autonomous regions to lay the groundwork for major change before bigger, bureaucracy-burdened nations can follow suit.
Malta, for example, has recently passed new legislation that allows recreational consumers to grow their own cannabis at home in an effort to reduce harms caused by criminalisation.
The UK mainland’s political processes, however, are cumbersome and the government’s war on drugs is deep rooted. It will probably take the successful implementation from numerous other countries before the UK decides to allow recreational cannabis use.
But having a Crown Dependency or two do the hard work first by establishing effective frameworks for adult use could speed things up on the mainland.
Being so close to the UK mainland, and even closer to the French, the Channel Islands also run the risk of becoming a stoner tourist hotspot, which probably isn’t wanted by most.
With burgeoning medical cannabis and hemp industries, recreational cannabis is destined to be considered by the Channel Islands such as Jersey and Guernsey.
If an effective system does get established, it will get harder and harder for the politicians on the UK mainland to ignore.
Could this be the path to legal adult use cannabis in the UK?