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Will Guernsey Go Next? |

Guernsey is the best place to be right at the moment as the European cannabis debate develops. It is situated between France, UK and Spain. The island has been working hard on medical reform questions for many years.

Now, there is a call for the island to go whole hog on the recreational reform discussion—and even more interesting, the petition is being championed by a political leader who also, not coincidentally, just resigned from the island’s Home Affairs Committee over its cannabis laws. Apparently, Marc Leadbeater’s role as a director of a local hemp company caused other members of the committee to question his perspective on drug reform.

Leadbeater is now proposing a specific political process—namely a requete—to discuss full legalization. This issue should be brought forward by 7 members of each state.

After Gavin St. Pier’s statement, which was made within days of his resignation as Chief Minister, there has been a lot of interest in the matter from officials. St. Pier shared that he believes cannabis should be legalized to better regulate, license and tax the industry for the benefit of the island’s economy.

Since July this year, there have been cannabis cultivation licenses available. It is home to several extraction businesses.

Since a while, cannabis has been viewed as an economic tool in the redevelopment of the empty greenhouses on the island. 

What is Furore Important?

These contretemps are so fascinating for many reasons. 

First, Luxembourg and Switzerland have both started to develop recreational markets. Even if they are only trial-based, this is a positive sign. Guernsey is a small island that could easily follow this trend. This will allow it to have an impact on the discussion regardless of its size.

Here is why—beyond becoming potentially the third (or fourth if Portugal continues to also move forward) country in Europe to go fully recreational. It is located on the British side. Guernsey could become the UK’s first region to legalize adult use if the pro-cannabis fervor is successful. 

It would be a significant step.

State of Cannabis Reform at Guernsey UK

Unfortunately, even though there has been much noise about it, the UK government has not responded in the same fashion as Germany to the growing cannabis debate. Although it technically is possible to obtain medical cannabis under the National Health Service, or NHS, reforms have been slow. Patients who have been approved to use cannabis (including MS patients) do not receive their marijuana.

British medical professionals have omitted chronic pain from the conversation. This is the most common condition German cannabis users treat.

Children with epilepsy is the only disorder (and patient population) to have captured public attention and political imagination. While this is a very effective way to move political will by inches and reluctantly in favor of medical reforms, it hasn’t created any patient base for public health.

Germany has an estimate of 130,000 cannabis patients, four-and-a-half years after the government made it mandatory that cannabis be covered by public health insurance. This was in response to a bid for domestic cultivation.

Germany’s cannabis discussion is far from sorted either—even on the medical front. The country, however, is far ahead of the UK.

You can only get medical cannabis in the UK by visiting a private clinic. However, most people are not able to afford this service. The practice of getting a personal import licence is also prohibited.

The UK’s reform process has been stopped, but not because of lack of interest from the budding sector. Cannabis conferences across the UK have sold out in this autumn. CBD is booming. Private specialty cannabis clinics are available for those who have the means. Even with all this fervor and bustle, there are still private clinics for cannabis specialists in the UK.

Real reform, however, is not likely to occur on the mainland.

That is why this move on Guernsey is now so politically important—not just on the island itself—but set against a much broader backdrop of regional reform on both sides of Brexit.

No matter what happens, in other words, the horse has certainly left the barn—and is unlikely to be the last one to do so.