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CRC: ‘Strong amount of support’ for cannabis reform

A group set up to look at reforming the law on marijuana plans to recommend a phased approach to legalisation.

The Cannabis Reform Collaborative (CRC) is likely to back the use of medical marijuana and decriminalisation of the drug, followed by a phase softening of a hard line approach to marijuana, backed by better education on abuse prevention and health.

CRC member Stratton Hatfield said: “I would have to say that the feeling we are getting from the public, there is a strong amount of support for reform — there's an overarching theme that the public is in support of reform.”

Mr Hatfield declined to discuss what recommendations the CRC would make to National Security Minister Michael Dunkley.

He said: “As to what that type of reform is, the verdict is out there still.”

But it is understood the CRC will recommend a substantial loosening off the laws surrounding the drug — and that their views would be in tune with Government thinking on the subject.

Mr Hatfield added: “We have definitely reached out to the community and spoken to a wide range of demographics and collected a lot of feedback which is going to be helpful.”

And he said that the focus on drugs needed to be moved away from supply reduction to demand reduction.

Mr Hatfield added: “We need to treat this issue as a health issue.”

And — although the group's efforts are concentrated on cannabis and its derivatives — Mr Hatfield said that the Island needed to look at the wider issue of substance abuse, including both harder drugs and legal ones with major health implications.

He added: “Substance abuse is not just drugs — sugar and processed foods have contributed to a rise in diabetes on this Island.”

And he added that those addicted to harder drugs should “be given a safe environment to receive treatment” and that the approach to drugs should include “a core emphasis on prevention and education.”

The news came as the CRC announced it would present its report by the middle of next month.

Members held a total of seven focus groups, including all sectors of society, to ask for their views.

The group also hosted an event with guest speakers, including overseas experts, to look at prevention, law enforcement, addiction treatment and the medical use of cannabis.

The CRC also took in a total of 23 submissions from members of the public and organisations — and have appealed for more in the run-up to finalisation of their report.

In addition, more than 10,000 people have so far responded to an electronic survey. Both survey answers and written submissions will be accepted until 5pm on Tuesday, March 25.

Members of the CRC also met the Cannabis Awareness Network, which has campaigned for medical use of cannabis, anti-racism group CURB, Government's Department of National Drug Control and the Opposition Progressive Labour Party.

Mr Hatfield said: “The CRC has been very appreciative of those members of the community that have provided information and their expertise in a collaborative effort.

“We are looking forward to presenting our document and final recommendations to the Government and public at large in due time.”

The e-survey can be found at www.surveymonkey.com/s/3YCZRNT, while written submissions should be sent to bda.crc@gmail.com.

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Published March 25, 2014 at 9:00 am (Updated March 25, 2014 at 12:38 am)

CRC: ‘Strong amount of support’ for cannabis reform

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