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Cannabis in Europe: Economic Diversity Driving Channel Islands Push

Jersey and Guernsey, two Crown Dependencies located in the United Kingdom’s Channel Islands region, are self-governed. Each with its own government and independent judicial system, they’ve been able to take a more progressive approach to medical cannabis, which will benefit their island residents and their economies.


With RYAH’s recent shipment of dose-measuring devices to Medicann in Jersey for an observational study, it’s worth taking a deeper look into the developments for medical cannabis accessibility and cultivation in the Channel Islands.


Medical Cannabis in Jersey & Guernsey


Even before Jersey became the first Crown Dependency to allow physicians to prescribe medical cannabis in 2019, the region had some of the most relaxed regulations on CBD, CBD imports, and hemp cultivation in the greater UK. 


Legally, farmers in Jersey can process the entire plant, including flowers, while farmers in the neighboring UK must destroy all flower parts. As their island microclimate is ideally suited to flower-hemp cultivation, local farmers have begun producing CBD explicitly for CBD extraction.


Jersey has three private medical cannabis clinics at the time of writing, including Medicann Cannabis Clinic, The Medical Cannabis Clinics Jersey, and Susida Medical. While it is technically legal for doctors to issue prescriptions from within Jersey’s public health system, this system does not yet have a framework to support access to medical cannabis. As a result, Jersey residents who wish to access medical cannabis must do so from private clinics, just like in the UK. Medical cannabis is then imported by these patients back onto the island.


But this may be changing soon. In early 2021, Jersey issued its first cultivation licenses to grow THC-rich medical cannabis. Northern Leaf was the recipient of one of these first licenses, and the company aims to supply high-THC medical cannabis to Jersey, the UK, and the broader international market before the end of the year.


In Guernsey, a smaller neighboring Channel Island, the medical cannabis program is also kicking off, although in a somewhat delayed fashion compared with Jersey. As is the case in Jersey, only private cannabis clinics in Guernsey have prescribed cannabis to eligible patients. 


In 2020, most reports indicated that no local doctors had approached the UK Specialist Register to go through the approval process, which meant that all island patients were getting their medical cannabis imported from private UK clinics.


In July 2021, the island was beginning to address these patient frustrations. Following a memorandum of understanding with the UK Home Office, Guernsey announced island businesses would now be eligible to apply for a cultivation license. The island has also just launched the Bailiwick of Guernsey Cannabis Agency to manage this new industry.


Goal to Make Cannabis a Driver of Economic Growth


While medical cannabis programs in the UK and the rest of Europe have been largely driven by patient demand, the Channel Islands are also taking into account an economic perspective.


In this sense, Jersey and Guernsey are operating with a very American attitude. Across the United States, many states have welcomed medical and recreational cannabis programs because of their potential to drive economic growth. 


As only one American example, Governor Andrew Cuomo explained that New York “embraces an industry that will grow the Empire State’s economy, and prioritizes marginalized communities so those that have suffered the most will be the first to reap the benefits.” Legislators in Jersey and Guernsey are making similar statements about the impact cannabis cultivation will have on the island’s rural economy.


In Jersey, the island’s Deputy Chief Minister and Minister for Economic Development, Senator Lyndon Farnham, has made the rounds at international cannabis forums touting the potential of his jurisdiction for cannabis cultivation. As reported by Channel Eye, Senator Farnham proclaimed his island was open for business at a Cannabis Europa meeting in Toronto in 2019.


More recently, he stated that the island’s newly issued cultivation licenses “represent the birth of a new economic sector in Jersey. It will have an important economic impact, driving high-value economic diversification, creating jobs, encouraging inward investment and generating tax new revenues to support economic recovery.”


According to a 2020 policy document issued by the State of Guernsey, it seems as if cannabis represents a similar economic opportunity for this island. 


As the “Cultivation and/or Processing of Cannabis and Cannabis Derived Products – Bailiwick of Guernsey Licensing Guide,” published in March 2020, detailed: “One of the key aims of [The Committee for Economic Development] is to diversify and grow Guernsey’s economy and re-affirm that the Island is open for business. The cannabis growing sector is seen as an emerging sector where new and innovative medicinal products can be grown and developed within a highly regulated environment in accordance with UK, EU and global standards.”


A Focus on Local Patient Access & Economic Diversification 


While patient demand may have initially opened the conversation about medical cannabis in the UK and its various Crown Dependencies, the economic potential is driving it forward. 


For islands like Jersey and Guernsey, cannabis offers a unique opportunity to access an international market through export. Their unusual position as Crown Dependencies, with independent governments and judicial systems, gives them the ability to move faster than what’s slowly unrolling in the UK. 


Both islands hope to capitalize off a rapid rollout to cement their access to the 20 European countries that have already approved medical cannabis. And, when the UK does have a framework for broader access to medical cannabis, these islands will be ready.

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