End Cannabis Prohibition on the island of Jersey started as a loose group of Facebook commentators but has since come together to form a cohesive campaign on the island.
The Leaf Desk sat down with one of the coordinators Simon Harrison to discuss how this grassroots campaign came about, their goals and their successes so far.
The beginning of End Cannabis Prohibition Jersey
In 2018, Jersey brought in legislation to legalise medicinal cannabis. Yet when Simon read through the law as it was published he noticed some discrepancies. “There was a clause that was copied from UK law that made it illegal to smoke medicinal cannabis. I started emailing our local politicians questioning that and this developed into a daily bombardment of a small group of politicians.”
This bombardment was unsurprisingly yet to produce much of a result. Simon realised by the end of 2019 this was going to take more of a coordinated effort.
In May 2020 during lockdown on the small island of the coast of the United Kingdom the police initiated Operation Shark to target drug dealers and users “they did a couple of dawn raids of people who were growing themselves” which stirred the community.
The resulting fallout led to the police “getting lambasted” on Facebook. In reaction “someone set up a private Facebook group and invited people who were prominent posters and commentators to become admins. I was posting the most so shortly after was nominated as coordinator. Within two weeks we had 2000 members and within a month 4000 members.” This Facebook group would form the basis on what would become the End Cannabis Prohibition Jersey campaign.
Creating a cohesive plan
Through this private Facebook group it allowed like minded individuals to come together to share ideas regarding cannabis within Jersey and to discuss the best way at lobbying Jersey politicians.
The coordinated effort Simon was hoping for became much easier.
The group discussed petitioning for a bill to decriminalise cannabis in 2020 and early 2021 but soon realised only a third of the government appeared supportive. To petition would be dangerous as “if it went through and got knocked back it wouldn’t be talked about for a few years so our focus became on the recent elections.”
Instead, Simon and other members of the group began putting together a presentation for those seeking election. This presentation forms the basis of their website https://cannabis.org.je/. They came up with “35 recommendations covering patient access, cannabis industry substance use strategy and decriminalisation towards regulation.” The website also contains a list of Jersey politicians, where they stand on the issue as well as a blog to keep the public updated.
Simon wrote the majority of the presentation which is extensive but would each day post in the Facebook group for feedback and input on his draft.
By February 2022 the website had been developed and launched. Between March and June the group were able to meet with 24 of the 92 candidates as well as getting in touch with another 55.
On the discussions with politicians the group were positive, “we got 75% that were receptive to our ideas.” The election was another positive for the group, “our largest party actually put decriminalisation in their manifesto and we believe around two thirds of those elected are receptive so we have a much more progressive state assembly than before.”
Keeping the politicians on their toes
The campaign has now switched focus. After wisely waiting for a more receptive state assembly which they received the group is keen to keep the pressure on the new politicians by lobbying them to follow through with their plans.
Legislation to decriminalise class B and C drugs should be coming to the assembly by the end of the year. There will be a £200 fine but no possible criminal record which the group welcomes.
Should End Cannabis Prohibition Jersey be successful in their goals they believe the UK will take note. “Even though we have our own government when it comes to drug laws we do sit under the UK and the Home Office so we really need open discussion with the Home Office to find a way through the international conventions. With Guernsey and Isle of Mann doing their reviews we have a great opportunity to provide a united front.”
“We are a great test bed for the UK, we have defined constrained borders. You can limit it to just stuff grown in the island so no worries on import export issues. Unless you can get around UN international conventions, we just need to start there.”
Simon also points to similar financial jurisdictions that Jersey could follow “It is in an interesting time in the cannabis industry, Malta going and Luxembourg going. When politicians talk about their concerns they wonder whether it will damage our international reputation and whether will it damage us as a financial centre. These other financial jurisdictions don’t care so why should we?”
The group continues to speak to the newly elected assembly. At the time of talking Simon and others were on their way to speak to the Assistant Minister for Home Affairs to discuss “substance use strategy and criminalisation” and the a week later the Assistant Minister for Economic Development to discuss the cannabis industry. Key to the group was creating the dialogue around the issues raised on the website which in the early stages of the new assembly they are managing to do.
Since the campaign began Simon nor the group has spent any money to help their cause. Instead, through a collaborative effort of like minded volunteers they have pushed the conversation to the forefront of politics in Jersey. Although great progress has been made, their efforts show no signs of slowing down.
To view their presentation on cannabis reform in Jersey click here.