Isle of Man seeks to become a hub for medical cannabis
Last year the Isle of Man Parliament (Tynwald) amended the Drug Abuse Act 1976 (Misuse of Drugs Act), in order to provide a legal framework for the development of a cannabis industry on the island. More specifically, the law now allows the Gambling Supervision Commission (GSC) to exclude cannabinol, cannabinol derivatives, cannabis or cannabis resin (other than a medical cannabis product) from the general prohibitions in law respecting the importation, exportation, production, supply or the supply of, and possession of, controlled drugs. Medicinal cannabis products may also be subject to an exception, provided the GSC obtains consent from the Ministry of Health and Social Affairs (DHSC).
Although no exceptions are allowed for culture, the Tynwald has approved earlier this year the Abuse of Drugs (Cannabis) Regulations 2020. Under this regulation, the GSC can issue licenses for cultivation, as well as for other activities, as specified in Annexes 2 and 3 of the regulation. For example, a Class 3 license allows the cultivation of cannabis with a high THC content (over 0,2%) in order to sell biomass, live plants and packaged plant parts. Class 3 license holders must be Isle of Man companies, and the responsible person must be a resident of Man. The license fee is £ 45000 in the first year, and drops to £ 35000 in the second year. Import and export licenses must be obtained separately, although the fees are considerably lower, and the license fee is capped at £ 62500.
As to why the Gambling Supervisory Commission is responsible for licensing cannabis, “it was agreed that the regulation and licensing for the new sector should be transferred [from DHSC] to a government function better placed to take into account aspects of licensing, control and supervision. The GSC was identified because of its historic success in regulating complex emerging industries, ”such as online gaming.
It should be noted that none of the licenses allow the sale of cannabis on the island. The GSC made it clear that “the new regulations provide for the cultivation of medical cannabis for export purposes only”. The changes to Manx law "do not permit any driving on the Isle of Man which is not already permitted in the UK under the Drug Abuse Act 1971 (as amended)". Although the Isle of Man is not part of the UK, the drug laws of the two countries are largely aligned with some UK drug regulations enforced on the Isle of Man by the Tynwald. Without an appropriate license issued by the GSC, possession, supply and production of cannabis remains illegal on the island.
With an area of 220 square miles, the Isle of Man may not become a major player in the cannabis industry. It is interesting, however, that even such a small jurisdiction is taking note of the opportunities presented by cannabis. Additionally, the Isle of Man model emphasizes the bespoke nature of cannabis legalization. The Manx may not be interested in selling cannabis products on the streets of Douglas, the island's capital, but that doesn't mean they have to forgo the benefits of the cannabis economy entirely.