Jersey is often portrayed as a culturally backwards throwback to the 1950s but it has left mainland UK behind when it comes to legalising cannabis medicine after politicians there voted that GPs should be allowed to prescribe it.
Islanders have been able to receive a free prescription for a cannabis-based painkiller since January but only when issued by hospital staff.
Last year, then-Health Minister Andrew Green announced he would be working on legislation that would legalise certain products.
However, Deputy Montfort Tadier has been frustrated by the lack of progress on the issue and brought forward proposals that would make all medical professionals legally allowed to prescribe cannabis and other medically approved cannabis-based products.
In the UK only specialist doctors have been allowed to prescribe cannabis medicine since 1 November – and they are proving very reluctant to prescribe.
Consultant neurologist Prof Mike Barnes said the mainland should follow the changes, as cannabis expertise was “rare” among medical professionals.
A report written by Mr Barnes in 2016 on the use of medical cannabis was previously cited by Jersey’s government when reviewing its drug laws.
He welcomed the decision, and said he remained “concerned” by the current stance in the UK that only specialists were allowed to prescribe.
“It is cannabis expertise that is required and not disease specific expertise,” he said. “I cannot see a logic in restricting prescriptions to hospital consultants, which narrows the pool of expertise, particularly in Jersey.”
Deputy Tadier put the plans forward in five sections. The first four outlined that all medical professionals with the right to prescribe should be permitted to prescribe:
- Individual Cannabinoids
- Pharmaceutically created cannabis derived products, including dronabinol, epidiolex, nabilone and sativex
The final section called on the island’s health minister to bring in changes to the law to allow the plans to come into force by 28 February 2019.
Currently Sativex, a brand of the drug Nabiximols, is the only cannabis-derived medicine prescribed in Jersey.
But Deputy Tadier said the process patients had to go through to be considered for the drug was “a long and arduous one”.
Following the debate he said: “We seem to have a states assembly that’s relatively open minded… it’s a positive step for the island and it means we’re leading the way in the British Isles on this subject.”
The plans were opposed by the island’s Minister for Health and Social Services, Deputy Richard Renouf, who wanted to take “a cautious, step by step approach” to the use of medical cannabis.