A LONG-AWAITED new substance use strategy is expected to be published next month, according to the Home Affairs Minister.
Deputy Helen Miles said that the Council of Ministers had this week received a ‘very comprehensive presentation’ from director of public health Professor Peter Bradley and Steve Gay, a senior policy officer.
The presentation was ‘very well received’, and following finalisation, the new strategy is due to be lodged as a report before the States Assembly ‘in the next couple of weeks’, Deputy Miles told a Scrutiny panel recently.
The strategy was originally due to be presented to the Council of Ministers on 14 March, but because of an overrun, it was bumped to the agenda for this week’s ministerial meeting.
Professor Bradley confirmed that ‘over the last year the Public Health Directorate have been developing a substance use strategy’.
He added: ‘The draft strategy takes a “health and social” approach to reduce harm and improve health. In doing so this covers a range of legal and illegal substances and different contexts of use.
‘The strategy has been developed in collaboration with a diverse range of internal and external stakeholders and follows international recommendations. This is to ensure alignment with best practice, existing Government of Jersey commitments and the needs of local stakeholders.’
Professor Bradley continued: ‘The strategy is now being finalised following review by the Council of Ministers, so at this time we cannot provide any further definitive timeline or detail.’
The JEP received no further clarification on the strategy, or any potential policies on the decriminalisation of cannabis.
In August last year, Deputy Miles said she was not ‘automatically in favour’ of decriminalising the drug, but would ‘look at’ it as part of a wider substance use strategy.
‘It does seem anomalous that cannabis for recreation might be controlled in a separate way that medicinal cannabis is,’ she said.
At that time, Jersey’s public health team also announced it had decided to move away from ‘drugs are bad’ campaigns to focus on promoting harm reduction among Islanders – from ‘just say no’ to ‘just stay safe’.
In 2021, the late Home Affairs Minister Len Norman said that the decriminalisation of drugs was something ‘we wanted to look at’. His Assistant Minister, Deputy Gregory Guida, who eventually took on the role of Home Affairs Minister, also said his position was ‘very much the same’.
The End Cannabis Prohibition Jersey campaign group has been calling for a review of the use of medicinal cannabis in Jersey, saying there is a ‘massive gap’ in understanding.
Reform Jersey leader Deputy Sam Mézec has previously said it was ‘blindingly obvious that the decriminalisation of cannabis was inevitable’, and called for the government to make this happen to avoid taxpayers’ money being wasted further.
Removing criminal penalties for possessing some drugs can reduce prisoner numbers and in some cases the dangers linked to addiction. In 2001, for example, Portugal decriminalised the possession of drugs for personal use, which resulted in a drop of deaths caused by overdose.
Speaking to the JEP, Mr Guida added that while decriminalisation would be relatively ‘easy’ and a ‘good thing to do’, such policies had been previously held back due to concerns that drug tourists would flock to the Island’s shores, in the same way they visit Amsterdam.