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Deputy's cannabis questions are ruled out of order

Deputy's cannabis questions are ruled out of order

Thursday 09 December 2021

Deputy's cannabis questions are ruled out of order

Thursday 09 December 2021

A deputy is asking for a review of rules on asking questions at States' meetings after questions he submitted on cannabis licences were ruled out of order by the Bailiff.

Ahead of next week's States' meeting, Deputy Gavin St. Pier submitted questions to the President of the Committee for Health & Social Care, Deputy Al Brouard. But Deputy St. Pier says his questions will not be allowed because Deputy Brouard is also making a routine statement on the work of his Committee which can be followed by questions from other States' members.

“While questions can be asked following a routine statement, time is limited and many members are competing to ask questions in that time. Rule 11 oral questions have their own separate time allocation and supplementary questions are allowed which provides greater opportunity to probe," said Deputy St. Pier.

“I have asked the States’ Assembly & Constitution Committee to look at this rule afresh. I think it’s there to prevent questions on matters such as legislation and policy letters that are due to debated later in the meeting anyway. I cannot believe it was intended to be interpreted to prevent effective in-depth scrutiny of Committee Presidents on specific topics of concern."

Deputy Gavin St Pier

Pictured: A finely-balanced interpretation of rules governing questions means that Deputy Gavin St. Pier cannot ask a series of questions about cannabis licences at next week's States' meeting. Instead, he is submitting them in writing, and he may have to wait up to 15 days for replies. 

The rules on questions for oral reply in the Assembly state that they "shall not relate to the business of the day". The origin of that wording pre-dates the introduction of routine statements, which have been made by Committee Presidents in rotation only since 2016. But the ruling which has thwarted Deputy St. Pier's questions suggests that questions for oral reply by a Committee President will not be permitted if that Committee President is making a routine statement at the same meeting.

Deputy St. Pier has now submitted his questions to Deputy Brouard for written reply by the Committee for Health & Social Care on or before 23 December.

His questions are about a memorandum of understanding signed earlier this year between the States and the UK Home Office which allows businesses to apply for a licence to grow medicinal cannabis in the Bailiwick. 

Since then, it is believed that concerns have arisen in parts of the industry about whether the memorandum of understanding - which has not been published in full - creates a genuine level playing field for businesses wishing to cultivate cannabis locally.

Deputy Al Brouard

Pictured: Deputy Al Brouard, the President of the Committee for Health & Social Care, announced the memorandum of understanding in July and said: "It marks the start of a process that may allow these products to be produced on island for the benefit of patients within the Bailiwick and overseas. The creation of the Bailiwick of Guernsey Cannabis Agency further enhances our robust regulatory system for cannabis cultivation.” 

Deputy St. Pier's questions for written reply are as follows:

Will the Committee publish in full or in part the Memorandum of Understanding signed with the UK’s Home Office in relation to the cultivation of cannabis?

If the Memorandum of Understanding will not be published in full, could the Committee explain:

Why this is the case?

Without transparency, how members of the industry are expected to develop practices that ensure they comply with the standards expected or implicit in the MoU?

Why do the States of Guernsey, via the Bailiwick of Guernsey Cannabis Agency, require an 'export licence' for companies to export CBD products to jurisdictions where there is no restriction on the import of CBD products and, in any event, the receiving jurisdiction is responsible for regulating compliance with its own laws and any international agreements? For example, the UK imports many CBD products from jurisdictions such as the US, Canada and elsewhere, yet the Guernsey CBD industry is prevented from exporting to the UK without a licence. 

What is the basis of the authority of the Bailiwick of Guernsey Cannabis Agency? It appears to have no statutory basis, so has it been established by resolution of the Committee delegating specific functions and powers? If so, is the Agency politically overseen by and accountable to the Committee? Or are any of the officers constituting the Agency acting in any statutory capacity?

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