Jersey passes ‘de jure’ decriminalisation of cannabis

Jersey passes ‘de jure’ decriminalisation of cannabis

Jersey lawmakers have passed new legislation which is described as a ‘step towards’ the decriminalisation of possession of small amounts of cannabis and other Class B and C drugs.In a vote on Wednesday 7 February, the Jersey States Assembly unanimously approved an amendment to the Misuse of Drugs Law that allows for those caught for repeat possession of small amounts of Class B and C drugs to avoid criminal prosecution. Currently, guidance says that first-time offenders caught with up to 15 g of cannabis should receive a Written Caution, rather than being progressed through the criminal justice system. The new legislation sees these guidelines written into law for the first time and expanded to include repeat offenders, who will now be liable for a level one fine of £200.Each of Jersey’s 12 parishes has an Honorary Police Force, made up of Centeniers, Vignteniers and Constables, elected by parishioners who serve on an unpaid basis. Since 1998 Centeniers —senior members of the forces and Prosecuting Officers under the Attorney General—have had the power to issue written warnings to first-time offenders, at what is known as Parish Hall enquiries, enabling them to avoid court and a permanent criminal record. This was extended to second-time offenders in 2019.Under the new law, Centeniers will also be able to issue warnings to repeat offenders, who currently must still be dealt with by the Magistrates court. The maximum penalty for possession of Class B and C drugs for repeat offenders will be set at £200. A step towards decriminalisationHousing Minister Sam Mézec said the change would address the ‘failure’ of current cannabis policy in what he described as a ‘step towards decriminalisation’.Speaking to the BBC, he said: “It treats those who smoke cannabis recreationally as people who will not end up in front of the Magistrates Court with a public criminal record and all of the implications that can have on their lives, job opportunities etc.”Simon Harrison, of Jersey cannabis reform activist group, End Cannabis Prohibition Jersey (ECPJ), explained that guidelines for the non-punitive policing of cannabis use have been in place since 1998, with the introduction of the new legislation a ‘logical next step’. “This new piece of legislation is a logical extension, replacing the Attorney General’s guidance of the last 25 years, to actually put it into law that Centeniers can issue a fine at Parish Enquiry for possession of Class B and C drugs for repeat offenders.“Whilst it is still a £200 fine — and obviously we would prefer there be no fine —the offender does not go to court and therefore does not get a permanent criminal record. It does appear on their local police record, and so can potentially still pop up on an extended DBS check, but as far as employment prospects or standard travel and those kinds of things, you wouldn’t have a drug offence.”He added: “As far as I’m concerned, this is de jure decriminalisation and it is the first time I’m aware of it actually being written into law in the British Isles.”The development comes following the publication of the new Substance Use Strategy in November 2023, which outlined objectives to review how small quantities of controlled drugs are dealt with to ‘ensure alignment with a health and social based approach’ and ‘continue progression away from criminalisation’.However, cannabis oil, or controlled cannabinoids not in the form of cannabis flower or resin remains a Class A drug with zero tolerance at Parish Hall Enquiry.Harrison says ECPJ intends to work with the new Government to ‘address this anomaly and bring further reforms’.Wider potential for Jersey’s legal cannabis market Jersey lawmakers have also recognised the economic potential of the legal medical cannabis market, issuing an amendment to the Proceeds of Crime Act in 2021, making it easier for cannabis businesses to operate on the island. The island is now home to a number of prominent UK medical cannabis companies,  reportedly seeing around £60m in investment from the sector since 2016.Nick Morland, CEO of Tenacious Labs which moved its business to Jersey in 2021, commented: “This move in Jersey to fine repeat offenders for possession rather than send them to the magistrates court reflects the general relaxation of cannabis attitudes being felt across the world today. “We believe that with carefully written and strictly enforced regulatory control, and the amendment of the Proceeds of Crime Act, cannabis can be a major force for good globally – like alcohol in its delivering of considerable tax revenue and rural jobs, and beyond that providing benefits from medicine for children with epilepsy to carbon negative insulation for homes. We are at the beginning of our journey in re-evaluating cannabis, a plant that can do so much good if we let it.”Home » News » Jersey passes ‘de jure’ decriminalisation of cannabis for personal use

https://cannabishealthnews.co.uk/2024/02/13/jersey-passes-de-jure-decriminalisation-of-cannabis-for-personal-use/

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