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Cannabis cultivation proposal gets mixed response from opposition bench

Cannabis buds are seen in a greenhouse at the headquarters of AGES agency in Vienna, Austria March 15, 2018. Picture taken March 15, 2018. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger

A proposal to grow cannabis in Gibraltar for pharmaceutical purposes drew a mixed reaction from opposition MPs yesterday: The GSD said it was opposed to such a scheme, while Independent MP Marlene Hassan Nahon expressed disappointment that, if approved, it would be only export.

They were reacting to news that the Gibraltar Government had been approached to consider the development of a pharmaceutical business in the growth of legal cannabis products in keeping with Gibraltar law.

The government has yet to respond to the proposal, which follows exiting business models in the UK, Canada and other countries including Spain.

But the subject is controversial and has already drawn a response despite the scant details available at this stage about the scale or nature of the proposal.

The GSD said the disadvantages of attracting such a business outweighed any possible advantages, not least from a reputational viewpoint.

The party cited the scrutiny and criticism that lawful activities such as bunkering, tobacco and financial services were routinely subjected to by Spain.

“Are we seriously going to present them with a further opportunity to conduct a false campaign against Gibraltar by allowing a business to establish itself in Gibraltar of this type?” the GSD asked.

“We have no doubt that the Government would ensure that the business would act within the law but it allows others who do not have Gibraltar’s interests at heart to completely misrepresent what is going on.”

“Given Gibraltar’s specific circumstances, not to mention the Brexit context and the years spent fighting the Spanish propaganda machine on tobacco and financial services, now is not the time to consider becoming commercial cannabis growers.”

The GSD said cultivation of cannabis was a completely different issue to the move to allow the prescription of cannabidiol products for medicinal purposes under stricltyl controlled conditions and clinical supervision, something the GSD supported when proposed in a government motion in Parliament last year.

“We are concerned that embarking on this cannabis initiative, at this moment in time, in Gibraltar, cannot be the best next move made by us from a PR perspective,” GSD MP Lawrence Llamas said.

“This cannot be something we do ‘because other countries do it’ or ‘because it is fashionable’ or simply because it is lucrative. There are wider reputational issues at stake.”

Independent MP Ms Hassan Nahon, however, expressed “frustration and disbelief” that the focus of the proposal under consideration was on exports, arguing that locally-grown cannabis could be of great medicinal relief to local patients.

“It must be remembered that when the medicinal cannabis conversations and debates began, those of us who were - and are still - campaigning for it to be legal were trying to achieve this for the benefit of those who suffer from conditions such as Parkinsons’ disease, Multiple Sclerosis or those receiving treatments like chemotherapy,” she said.

“To see that Government is now entertaining a cultivation facility for export without considering legalising the plant for medicinal purposes locally, sounds like we’re planning to bolster our coffers without any regard for the potential benefits to very sick patients.”

“This is not about Brexit, or what is fashionable and what isn’t. This is about people’s health.”

“What we should be doing is taking steps within controlled and regulated environments to enable this plant to heal people locally, not just to make money.”

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