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Requête on way if deputies prevent vote on cannabis review this week

Requête on way if deputies prevent vote on cannabis review this week

Monday 27 June 2022

Requête on way if deputies prevent vote on cannabis review this week

Monday 27 June 2022


The States look set to vote soon on a full review of cannabis laws - even if deputies who oppose a review succeed in their attempt to avoid a vote on the issue this week.

Deputy Marc Leadbeater has told Express that he is ready "to lead a Requête and force the debate that way".

A States' member needs the support of six others to submit a Requête. Deputy Leadbeater is confident that he comfortably has the numbers for a Requête if the Assembly backs a proposal from Deputies Andrew Taylor and David Mahoney which would remove a full review of cannabis laws from the items on which it will vote at the conclusion of this week's annual debate on the States' Work Plan. 

"Obviously it's neater to include the work stream in the Government Work Plan, but if some deputies try and block that from happening there will be little other choice but to lead a Requête," said Deputy Leadbeater.

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Pictured: The future of laws on cannabis will be prominent among the issues up for debate at this week's States' meeting on the Assembly's priorities for the next 12 months.

The Policy & Resources Committee is offering to include a "review of the legal status of cannabis" in the States' Work Plan from 2023 if the States shelve work they previously agreed to change public health laws and the powers of the Medical Officer of Health.

But Deputies Taylor and Mahoney have submitted an amendment - reported extensively by Express on Tuesday - which tries to take away the choice currently facing deputies between a review of public health laws and a review of cannabis laws and proposes completely removing the option of voting for a review of cannabis laws.

Deputy Taylor told Express that his amendment "followed advice from people who are a great deal more knowledgeable on the subjects", which had been available to him since he was elected as a member of the Committee for Home Affairs 20 months ago. 

But deputies who favour reviewing the legal status of cannabis have said that the pre-emptive strike by Deputies Taylor and Mahoney to avoid a review is "baffling" and "irresponsible" because they feel it would prematurely rule out changes to cannabis laws before the issue has been thoroughly considered.

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Pictured: Deputies Andrew Taylor (inset, top) and David Mahoney (inset, bottom) want to remove the option of reviewing cannabis laws from the list of votes to be taken by the States at their debate this week.

Deputy Aidan Matthews, a member of the Committee for Health & Social Care, which backs a full review, is the latest States' member to speak publicly against the amendment from Deputies Taylor and Mahoney.

"The amendment is foolhardy and wasteful," said Deputy Matthews. 

"The Work Plan item is to allocate a small slice of resource towards research on the merits of regulated cannabis, applied to our local circumstances. The amendment will result in a States' debate on the merits of legalisation but without the benefit of quality research and analysis that our health services can provide."

Deputy Aidan Matthews

Pictured: Deputy Aidan Matthews is strongly opposed to the amendment submitted by Deputies Andrew Taylor and David Mahoney.

Deputy Matthews suggested that the amendment would only delay the inevitable and deny Guernsey early advantages of reform.

"It is inevitable that cannabis will become legal at some point. Much of North America has already done this and European countries are likely to follow. [A full review] is a sensible use of resources to benefit the island," he said.

"Delaying now will only result in Guernsey missing out on opportunities to take a lead on the issue. Other jurisdictions, such as Jersey and the Isle of Man, will likely benefit at our expense.

"Guernsey needs to adapt to a changing world and take the lead if we are to prosper. Cannabis has potential benefits to strengthen and diversify our economy and provide a revenue stream for the island, which we should absolutely be considering.

"The question is whether Guernsey demonstrates agility as a leader and reaps benefits or waits until others make the first moves."

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Pictured: Deputy Andrew Taylor believes that Guernsey should avoid trying to lead the way on setting regulations and standards for the decriminalisation or legalisation of recreational cannabis. 

But Deputy Taylor has said that it is impractical for Guernsey to try to lead on an issue of such complexity which would consume significant resources.

"Where I’ve changed my mind is that 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," said Deputy Taylor.

"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.

"For nearly a year, I have been one of the political members on the 'non-punitive approach to possession of small quantities of drugs research group'. This is a cross-committee group [involving the Committee for Home Affairs and the Committee for Health & Social Care].

"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."

Pictured top: Deputy Marc Leadbeater, who has openly declared that he is a Director of a cannabis company based in Guernsey and has long supported reforming the island's drug laws.

READ MORE...

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