After the UK government was "embarrassed" into allowing the use of cannabis-based medications in a widely publicised case, Jersey is now being urged to reconsider its own stance.
Canada seems to be going even further and legalising the drug for recreational use too, having legalised it this week.
In his latest insight, Express columnist 'The Insider' says Jersey could substantially increase its tax revenues by following a similar path...
"I have recently made an argument for recognising the global shift which is well under way by creating a regulated legal market for cannabis. To be clear I meant both medical and recreational use. This is a logical response to the fact that prohibition is both expensive and ineffective and drives capital in to the illegitimate market where substantial resources are lost to public use.
"The issue of medical use is back in the news in a big way. Writing in the Telegraph, Lord William Hague, former leader of the Conservative Party, has said that the eventual approval by the Home Office, for medicinal cannabis oil to be used to treat epileptic youngster Billy Caldwell, was evidence that a hard-line stance on the drug had become 'inappropriate, ineffective and utterly out of date.' The 12-year-old was made to wait almost a week before being allowed to use the drug, prescribed by doctors, which his mother had brought home from Canada, after it was confiscated by border officials at Heathrow Airport. This was quickly followed by a licence to use medical cannabis being issued in relation to 6 year old Alfie Dingley.
Pictured: Billy Caldwell and his mum. (Yui Mok/PA)
"An expert panel of clinicians is to be set up to advise the government on applications to prescribe cannabis-based medications in the wake of the case. The Home Office has rather found itself in a tangle over how to deal with the determined mother of Billy Caldwell. I suspect Mrs Caldwell has just blown a further, and this time terminal, whole in the UK Government's argument against medical cannabis. It seems inevitable that Jersey will be forced to catch up, at least in this respect, and that it would be better for the States to face up to this issue on their own terms using compassion and medical argument before they are embarrassed into doing so by a local Mrs Caldwell.
"MPs in the UK may get a chance to supersede the expert panel next month when Labour backbencher Paul Flynn tables a private members' bill with a vote on cannabis legalisation for medicinal use. Given the public mood and weight of medical evidence, it is easy to see this bill getting substantial support. I would argue that it is time that the States of Jersey had a vote on the issue so we could see which of our States members stand with common sense and which of them is brave enough to say so. If we legalise cannabis for medical use we will be in good company with our European friends in Germany and Norway.
"Lord Hague goes further in to the debate on recreational use arguing that, 'when a law has ceased to be credible and worth enforcing to many police as well as the public, respect for the law in general is damaged,' he wrote. He said 'any war' to prevent use of the drug in the UK had been 'irreversibly lost,' and that the idea it could be 'driven off the streets' was 'nothing short of deluded.' Yet the Home Office persists in its current policy. As do the States of Jersey.
Pictured: Legalising cannabis would help save £300million in legal costs but also bring in an estimated £1billion in tax revenue.
"Health Poverty Action, a think tank, has argued that the time has come to regulate cannabis and allow it to be used lawfully as part of a modern approach to the war on drugs whilst acting as a source of new tax revenue for the NHS. According to its research 47% of Brits support selling cannabis in licensed shops with the figure rising to 52% amongst 18-44 year olds. They argue that legalising cannabis would save almost £300million across the police, court, prison and probation services in England and Wales allowing resources to be targeted at more serious and violent crimes and reduce the overall prison burden.
"It is not the savings which are staggering but the expected net tax take which is estimated to be £1billion annually which compares to the £3.5billion raised from tobacco. I think this figure is very conservative but whatever the number it would be a substantial figure. In the context of Jersey it would be welcome revenue to invest in, for example, improved mental health and alcohol awareness.
"Surveys from NHS Digital in England found that secondary school pupils who found it very easy to buy cannabis were more likely to have tried drugs than cigarettes. A surprising 24% of 11-15 year olds interviewed said that they had tried recreational drugs, at least once, which was a 9% rise on the last survey conducted in 2014. I would be surprised if the statistics were very different in Jersey. The system is failing to keep up with the reality.
Pictured: "It seems to me that legalising medical use is really a no brainer," says the Insider.
"Uruguay became the first country to legalise cannabis in 2013. Canada is the first G7 nation to vote to legalise recreational use with The Cannabis Act passing through the final stages of a Senate vote to legalise cultivation, purchase and consumption. The country’s justice minister said: "...This legislation will protect our youth from the risks of cannabis while keeping profits out of the hands of criminals and organised crime" (medical use has been legal since 1981).
"The new law controls cannabis sales in a similar way to alcohol sales. This will produce an interesting issue for the Canadian banking system and the compliance departments of banks like the Royal Bank of Canada in Jersey who are trying to comply with global regulation which might clash with domestic law. Canadians may find it legal to sell cannabis but hard to bank the takings.
"New Zealand has announced that it will hold a referendum on the issue and a string of US States have legalised both medicinal and recreational use.
"Lord Hague has called on the UK government to 'be bold' and follow Canada in legalising cannabis for recreational use partly because of the economic benefits but also on the grounds that it would be socially beneficial to redirect our use of resources. I realise that, irrespective of the economic logic, the legalisation of recreational use is a bridge too far the States at this time, but it seems to me that legalising medical use is really a no brainer. We will get there eventually, but the sooner we do so, the less distress we will cause for those for whom the medication will bring relief."
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