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Should the States prosecute 'medicinal' cannabis users?

Should the States prosecute 'medicinal' cannabis users?

Monday 12 September 2016

Should the States prosecute 'medicinal' cannabis users?

Monday 12 September 2016


A Jersey politician wants to know how many people who use cannabis for medicinal purposes were prosecuted last year, and how much it has cost to take them to court.

Deputy Montfort Tadier has been a long-standing supporter of relaxing the law to allow some people to use cannabis to help alleviate pain, especially for multiple sclerosis and cancer sufferers.

He has frequently  asked questions in the States about the use of medicinal cannabis and two years ago unsuccessfully brought a petition and proposition to the House to “issue a licence to Ms Evelyn Volante for the possession of cannabis for the treatment and relief of her pain.”

Deputy Tadier now wants to put the subject back on the table and on Tuesday will be asking the Island’s top lawyer – the Attorney General – “How many people claiming to be medicinal users of cannabis were prosecuted in 2015, if any?” Plus “What were the sentences in such cases and what was the outcome?”

The last time Deputy Tadier asked the Home Affairs Minister similar questions back in April, he was told the police had arrested 665 individuals for cannabis possession in the past five years – and that 714 cases of cannabis possession were referred to the courts or parish hall. Of those 66 cases ended with the accused being sent to prison. He was told, because of the different ways in which cases were dealt with, “it is not possible to accurately estimate the cost of cannabis enforcement.” And that it was “not possible to distinguish how many individuals claimed to be ‘medicinal' users.”

Deputy Tadier says there is plenty of anecdotal reports of people using cannabis in the Island for purely health reasons and that the drug does help them. He says there’s also a growing body of support world-wide for decriminalising cannabis.

When he last quizzed the Solicitor General about whether it would be possible to issue a special licence he was told: “In principle, the [Health] Minister can lawfully issue a licence for the possession of cannabis for medicinal use but there would need to be evidence of some genuine and special medical benefit that would justify the issuing of a licence for a special purpose… the phrase ‘special purpose’ is a high bar to satisfy.”

The Solicitor General though did note that trials using a cannabis-based drug, Sativex, had shown it did help people suffering from multiple sclerosis and cancer, and that it is prescribed in both England and Jersey.

Deputy Tadier says the current laws are draconian and should be relaxed on compassionate grounds. He also believes prosecuting medicinal users does not make financial sense.

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Posted by Chris Coomer on
In June of this year, the UK’s two leading public health bodies; the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) [1] and the Faculty of Public Health (FPH) [2], which represent thousands of doctors and other health professionals, openly called for drug decriminalisation.

In 2014, a UK Home Office report [3] established once and for all that 'punitive drug law enforcement is failing', and that 'there is no evidence that tough enforcement of the drug laws on personal possession leads to lower levels of drug use.'

In 2001, Portugal decriminalised all drug use [4]. This led to a marked decline in the rates of adolescent and problematic drug use, reduced the associated social costs and harms, reduced incidence of HIV and AIDS, and led to a drop in drug induced deaths. Decriminalisation has also led to more people receiving the treatment they require.

Cannabis has proven to carry less addictive potential than alcohol, tobacco, opiates, opioids, and benzodiazepines. It has also been well established that cannabis has many medicinal and therapeutic uses, and no one has ever died from a cannabis overdose - it's virtually impossible.

In light of this and the mountains of other supporting information and evidence, more of which emerges every day, it's wholly immoral and unjust to continue prosecuting sick and injured individuals for nothing more heinous than self medicating with personal amounts of cannabis. At the very least, decriminalising personal possession in circumstances where there's a clear benefit to the user would be a small step towards an overall more humane approach.
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