Health Minister’s cannabis stance at odds with Chief Minister

Tynwald buildings, Douglas

Tynwald buildings, Douglas

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The Health Minister says he has no plans to review his department’s current policy on cannabis.

Howard Quayle was questioned in the House of Keys about what the professional advice was on the short and long-term effects of cannabis use, and on introducing legislation covering its retail sale.

Leonard Singer tabled the question in the wake of comments made by Chief Minister Allan Bell that he believed consideration should be given to decriminalising the drug.

Mr Bell’s stance subsequently received the backing of a public health consultant.

In his reply, Mr Quayle said the effects of cannabis were dependent on dose and the type used. He said the short-term effects include lack of concentration and inability to drive safely, while long term use has been shown to be associated with depression and the risk of schizophrenia.

He said a move to decriminalisation would require changes to primary and secondary legislation and would need royal assent. He would leave members to speculate how practical that would be, he added.

Mr Singer suggested that Mr Quayle was basically saying his department would not support legislative change. He asked if the public statement by the public health official was contrary to the department’s policy.

The Health and Social Care Minister replied: ‘There are no plans to review our existing policy until specifically instructed to do so by a higher authority.’

He said if you got 20 consultants in a room and ask their opinion you would always get a mixed viewpoint.

Graham Cregeen (Malew and Santon) asked if the higher authority might include the Chief Minister.

Mr Quayle said Mr Bell had expressed his own person opinion. He explained by ‘higher authority’ he meant the House of Keys and Tynwald.

Peter Karran (Lib Van, Onchan) suggested consideration should be given to the decriminalisation of cannabis for medical conditions and local medical research.

The Minister replied that it would be down to ‘political will’ to have a debate on this. ‘It’s not up to me to change policy without this House and the Court of Tynwald,’ he said.

Mr Bell hit the headlines last month when he said he believed consideration should be given to the decriminalisation of cannabis.

He said the old-style war on drugs has failed miserably, and cannabis use should be considered a health matter and not a criminal activity. ‘I’m not saying it should be legalised but there should be a different approach,’ he said.

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