The Channel Islands—British territory located between the U.K. and France—are certainly moving ahead with medical cannabis reform, and further in stark contrast to what is currently afoot on the mainlands of either the U.K. or Europe.
Both Guernsey and Jersey have proceeded with medical reform in a way unseen in the U.K.—and indeed most of the E.U. These two islands are also ahead of the Isle of Mann just off the southern coast of the U.K., which is now planning a multi-million dollar medical facility.
That is particularly true of Guernsey. Since medical cannabis was made legal in the midst of the Pandemic in 2020, 5,069 medical cannabis licenses have been handed out to patients. The vast majority of these were distributed last year. About 4,500 were granted after March 2021. Six hundred and fifty eight have been issued this year.
Beyond individual patient authorization, the government began dispensation of licenses for commercial medical cannabis cultivation in 2019. Growing on the island commenced last year in July. There are also extraction facilities located here.
The island’s authorities have also consistently backed the growth of the industry here to promote local economic development.
Recreational Cannabis in the Cards for the Channel Islands?
Set free from onerous restrictions on the British mainland, Guernsey’s government has been quick to support the continued development of the industry. Indeed, recreational reform may happen this year too. The added income is clearly seen as green manna from heaven for an island with literally acres of empty greenhouses.
On Jersey, medical cannabis cultivation is also underway, but other reform appears to be on a bit more of a cautious schedule.
Guernsey, in other words, may become the first recreational cannabis “hotspot” within the U.K. In the meantime, it is powering forward on the medical side.
The State of Reform in the United Kingdom
The success of Guernsey stands in marked contrast to the ongoing problems seen on the mainland. Medical cannabis dispensation is still in its infancy. There has been one widespread medical trial, called Project Twenty21, organized by the non-profit research organization Drug Science, which has so far registered 20,000 patients, and offers them access to discounted medical cannabis. However, a second trial, put together by a private Harley Street clinic, and focusing on chronic pain, has been put into slow mode recently.
Currently chronic pain is not recognized by British medical authorities as a condition they believe can be treated by medical cannabis. Indeed, the British government specifically ruled out eligibility for treatment for this condition as medical cannabis has been considered for other diseases. About 1 in 3 Britons suffers from chronic pain.
In stark contrast, across the Pond in North America, chronic pain is the number one health condition cited by cannabis patients as the reason for their use of the drug.
The Impact of Recreational Reform in Guernsey
Given the state of speed the island has moved into the medical discussion, it is not out of the question for Guernsey to follow Malta in becoming the second island nation in Europe to allow recreational reform.
Distanced from the more complicated discussions of their respective mainlands they belong to, island nations and territories may in fact help lead the way across the region in implementing faster cannabis reform than the regions in which they are located.
This is for several reasons starting with home rule. In fact, such islands act more like U.S. states in being able to implement local cannabis regulations independently. Beyond this, cannabis reform in particular is attractive for the potential income it promises such jurisdictions.
If Guernsey does in fact enact recreational reform this year or early next, it will certainly help to move the debate in both the U.K. and Europe by providing another island test case that can be studied by those now deferring and kicking either the medical or recreational question down the road.
The anti-reform voices currently slowing down both medical and recreational reform are quick to quote outdated data. By having self-contained trials on the islands of Malta and Guernsey (beyond the trial now pending in Switzerland for later this year), the entire discussion moves beyond the theoretical into live trials. This is promising for reform generally, as the real impact on both economies and people can be studied within a European setting.
In the meantime, the best place to be a cannabis patient in the U.K. right now is the island of Guernsey.