JERSEY has raked in up to £60m in investment from medical cannabis businesses since 2016, according to the Channel Islands Economic Development Minister.
The Crown Dependency, viewed by many prominent UK medical cannabis operators as a vital ‘case study’, showcasing how potentially lucrative the industry could be in the UK, is now understood to be developing a new ‘strategic development plan’.
This plan, set to be published by the end of the month, will aim to determine the island’s own ‘detailed specific regulations for the cannabis industry’, in further efforts to attract investment from the sector.
It comes as one of the island’s most prominent cannabis businesses, Northern Leaf, announced that it had secured EU GMP certification, as it gears up to launch an IPO.
Jersey’s medical cannabis industry
Jersey’s status as a Crown Dependency means that, while its laws are closely aligned with those in mainland UK, it is able to differentiate itself and make amendments in key areas.
One such area is the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA), which has long hampered the development of cannabis companies in the UK.
Currently, companies that grow and sell recreational cannabis – even in countries where it is legal such as Canada – risk falling foul of POCA.
In June 2021, in an effort to develop a new industry, create jobs and attract investment to the island, the States Assembly passed an amendment that essentially altered POCA.
The amendment was made ‘specifically for cannabis’, meaning that income generated through the sale of recreational cannabis in around 30 markets where it has determined there are adequate anti-money-laundering laws will not suddenly become illegal as soon as it enters Jersey.
Furthermore, unlike the rest of the UK, Jersey’s GPs do not need a special licence to prescribe medical cannabis, meaning that around 2% of Jersey’s population now hold prescriptions.
Its strategy appears to be working. Speaking during a scrutiny hearing earlier this month, which questioned whether ‘weak’ regulation was endangering the industry, Jersey’s Economic Development Minister, Kirsten Morel, said tens of millions of pounds of investment had already been brought onto the island, largely through the creation of cannabis cultivation facilities.
“I can promise you that as a government we have not spent anything close to £50m to £60m on developing this, yet we’ve had that inward investment, so the benefit to the island is already clearly a positive,” he explained.
It is understood that around 15 cannabis companies are currently operating in Jersey, while over two dozen planning applications for cannabis operations have been approved since 2018.
Strategic development plan
The meeting of the Economic and International Affairs Scrutiny Panel, which took place on June 01, saw Mr Morel scrutinised by Deputy Moz Scott on the potential risk factors surrounding the rapidly growing industry.
Mr Morel explained that to date Jersey had created ‘an investment framework, not a policy’.
“Moving forward, as we do with other sectors, we need to be very clear about what we want to achieve between now and 2040.”
He added that work to establish a fully fledged regulatory framework was commissioned and began in April, with a ‘first draft and policy recommendations’ set to be ready by the end of June.
“That’s really important because until we’ve got a policy in place, it’s very difficult to regulate a sector. We’re now in the policy building stage. It was very important to the previous scrutiny panel that we did a risk assessment, which we’ve embedded in the work as well,” Mr Morel said.
In a separate written statement published on May 19, Mr Morel said that his department would ‘look to opportunities where Jersey has the potential to stand out’, including using the island’s infrastructure to ‘attract operators, funds and other cannabis services’, alongside ‘supporting reliable and trusted financial services for the cannabis sector’.
The Jersey Standard
Mr Morel also spoke of his ambition to create a ‘Jersey Standard – setting the island’s cannabis services apart while providing security to operators and investors’.
According to industry stakeholders, this has already been largely successful.
Northern Leaf, which this week announced the ‘significant achievement’ of securing EU GMP accreditation from the MHRA, is now one of the largest operators on the island, boasting a 100,000 sq. ft greenhouse and processing facility.
Speaking to Business of Cannabis earlier this year, CEO Don Perrott said that the ‘benefits of operating in Jersey were hugely significant’.
“I can’t describe to you how supportive the government is in Jersey in terms of building a centre of excellence in medical cannabis in Jersey. I would say using the word hell bent is not an exaggeration in terms of what they’re trying to do in the sector.”
He said one of the key advantages of having a licence issued by the government of Jersey, as opposed to the UK’s Home Office, is his company’s ability to export unlicensed cannabis medicines.
“That gives us a significant advantage if we’re comparing ourselves to other LPs in the UK because we can go to Israel; we can go to Portugal; we can go to Germany, Poland, Australia and New Zealand.”
Nicholas Morland, CEO of Tenacious Labs, which moved its headquarters to Jersey in 2021, told Business of Cannabis that the UK was ‘very, very close’ to making a similar amendment to POCA.
Regarding the legislation, he said: “It isn’t stupid legislation. It has just outgrown being fit for purpose. But it’s a very easy fix. There’s no primary legislation required there.”
He added that all that is needed was 20 minutes of ‘time to add a paragraph on to the POCA’s existing legislation, exactly as we did in Jersey’.