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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