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Cannabis debate and vote set to go ahead as deputies pull amendment

Cannabis debate and vote set to go ahead as deputies pull amendment

Thursday 30 June 2022

Cannabis debate and vote set to go ahead as deputies pull amendment

Thursday 30 June 2022


A States' vote on whether to take the first steps towards a review of cannabis laws moved closer late yesterday.

Deputy Andrew Taylor had submitted an amendment which, if approved, would have struck out a vote later in the debate on whether to move towards a review of either public health laws or the legal status of cannabis. But he declined to lay his amendment for debate when the Bailiff, Richard McMahon, called him towards the end of the second day of the States' meeting.

Deputy Taylor was under no obligation to tell the Assembly why he was declining to lay his amendment and he chose to provide no explanation. 

The Bailiff, who was presiding at the meeting, and several other States' members said they were caught by surprise that the amendment was not laid. 

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Pictured: A group which campaigns for reform of cannabis laws across the Channel Islands had referred to the amendment circulated by Deputies Andrew Taylor and David Mahoney as "a wrecking motion". 

Express invited Deputy Taylor to explain the reasons for his unexpected move last night, but he did not reply in the limited time before publication this morning.

It is not impossible that the amendment could be laid while the Assembly continues to debate amendments to the draft States' Work Plan today. But Deputy Taylor yesterday gave no indication that he wanted to pursue his amendment later than the Bailiff had called him to lay it, which in any event would be a highly unusual move. 

It is now more likely that the States will have the opportunity during general debate on their Work Plan to discuss the possibility of reviewing the legal status of cannabis and then to vote at the end of general debate on the choice presented by the Policy & Resources Committee between moving towards a review of public health laws or a review of cannabis laws.

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Pictured: States' members left the Assembly last night expecting to debate and vote on whether to take the first steps towards a review of the legal status of cannabis after an amendment to remove the option from the list of votes was taken off the table. 

Deputy Taylor's amendment, which was circulated last week with Deputy David Mahoney listed as its seconder, proposed removing the choice of votes currently facing deputies and deleting the option of voting to take the first steps towards a review of cannabis laws.

Approving a review of cannabis laws would significantly increase the chances of a debate in the current States' term about whether cannabis should be decriminalised or legalised. Whereas approving the amendment submitted by Deputies Taylor and Mahoney would almost certainly have ruled out any further serious reconsideration of cannabis laws before the next election in 2025.

Despite the apparent withdrawal of Deputy Taylor's amendment, most deputies spoken to by Express yesterday, including deputies with strong views on opposing sides of the debate about cannabis laws, said they anticipated that the Assembly would ultimately reject starting a review of the legal status of cannabis.

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Pictured: States' members who favour reform of cannabis laws know they face an uphill battle to move towards legalisation or decriminalisation in this term of the Assembly.

Ahead of this week's States' meeting, Deputies Taylor and Mahoney issued an 11-page report in support of their amendment.

"The considerations that weigh against approving a review of the legal status of cannabis are many," said Deputies Taylor and Mahoney.

They said they include that "cannabis use presents significant health risks, exploring a change to the legal status of cannabis would be complicated, risky and resource-intensive [and] jurisdictions that have liberalised cannabis law are seeing adverse impacts".

Deputies Taylor and Mahoney criticised a decision made by the previous States' Assembly in 2020 which directed relevant committees to report to the States on options for alternative and non-punitive approaches to the possession and use of small quantities of illegal drugs. They said: "The problems that [direction] seeks to solve barely exist."

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Pictured: Deputy Marc Leadbeater had said that he would have forced debate on cannabis laws by taking a Requête to the States if Deputy Andrew Taylor had laid his amendment to avoid a vote this week and seen the amendment approved by the Assembly.

Deputies who favour reviewing the legal status of cannabis had criticised the pre-emptive strike to remove a vote on the issue and labelled it "baffling" and "irresponsible".

And one Deputy, Marc Leadbeater, said the 11-page report issued in support of the amendment was "the biggest crock of nonsense I've had the misfortune to have to read for quite some time".

In the lead up to the States' meeting, Deputy Taylor said: "I don’t believe a regulated industry will be feasible unless the UK - or another close neighbour - does the leg work in creating the framework. We simply don’t have the resources to undertake such a complex workstream without major impact elsewhere.

"I have been part of the research group [into non-punitive approaches to drugs], given strong challenge throughout and I’m following the advice from people who are a great deal more knowledgeable on the subjects.

"The group had expert input from both health care professionals and law enforcement and looked at various different jurisdictions and their approaches. The overall conclusion - and I'm being incredibly brief here - being that we can already address the main community concerns within our existing legislation, but improved communication between all involved professionals and interested parties was needed.

"We could conduct another review, but I don’t believe we could feasibly complete policy change regardless of the review findings. Nobody wants increased taxes and we’re already oversubscribed on work. I do concede that the results could be measurable, but we have to prioritise workstreams and this, sadly, doesn’t make the cut for me."

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Pictured: Deputy Al Brouard's (left) Committee for Health & Social Care and Deputy Rob Prow's Committee for Home Affairs are working together on a review of whether to treat drug abuse as more of a health-related issue but legalisation and decriminalisation were ruled out of consideration at the start of that review.

Debate on the draft States' Work Plan continues into a third day today.

The Assembly debated a series of amendments about housing yesterday and on Tuesday and at least one further amendment on housing has been circulated for debate today. 

General debate and votes on the propositions in the Work Plan will follow debate on the amendments. 

READ MORE...

"Smoking a bit of cannabis at home...no different to my dad having a G&T"

Deputies' cannabis arguments are "the biggest crock of nonsense"

Deputies bid to block cannabis vote

Cannabis law review moves closer - and States to debate GP costs

Drugs laws under review - but legalisation is off the agenda

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