TODAY, Jersey is at the forefront of an unprecedented opportunity, unmatched since the modern finance industry’s inception over 50 years ago.

With the challenges of the emerging legal cannabis industry only intensifying, Jersey is in the most enviable position imaginable, benefiting from hindsight and lessons learned, alongside the opportunity to build a brand associated with premium quality within the medicinal space.

This strategy offers our best defence against the typical pattern of overcapacity and price compression seen in legal markets – by making Jersey the place most associated with transforming the world-view poor-quality image of legal cannabis, we can strategically position the Island for the long term.

With the Island’s rich agricultural history and a reputation for regulatory excellence, there is perhaps no better place in Europe to produce premium grade, “craft” quality, cannabis.

Additionally, our access to affordable “green” electricity provides a significant locational advantage – the low costs of which more than offset higher wages. The Island’s natural beauty, and our surfing community – in which talented growers would feel most at home – makes Jersey the ideal place to live, work and play.

With a nimble government, able to seize opportunities as they arise, we have all the capabilities and attributes necessary to strategically position the Island for long-term success. Economically, this offers blue-collar jobs in an international industry with an almost unlimited market. Alone, the UK’s medicinal cannabis market is estimated at 700 tonnes annually, valued at £2.8 billion.

Our aim is to service the top 5%, the premium segment.

However, like any opportunity, it will demand hard work, effort, robustleadership and political commitment.

A great example can be found in the history of Jersey’s finance sector, led by Cyril Le Marquand and Colin Powell, who transformed a small finance industry in 1969 into a best-in-class world-leading international finance centre.

With additional support from organisations such as Jersey Business and the Institute of Directors, we can propel local firms over what is arguably the greatest regulatory barrier of any industry, the dreaded Good Manufacturing Practices. These barriers are high for a good reason – people expect the medicine they take to be safe.

Perhaps our most significant challenge in developing a thriving industry lies in shifting perceptions. That is, persuading people to forget everything they think they know about cannabis and accepting that what they believe about cannabis may not be correct.

On one extreme end of the spectrum, there are those who believe cannabis is dangerous and linked to mental-health issues and are, as such, reticent to move towards medicinal access. At the other end there is a rush towards large-scale production akin to tobacco or tea.

Some believe there is a “first-mover advantage”, and others say that “the bubble has burst”. Misunderstandings persist among regulators, investors and entrepreneurs alike.

With respect to the understandable concerns surrounding mental health, there is a great deal of research that questions the supposed link between cannabis and psychosis. While there is no dispute that there is an association between the use of psychoactive substances and mental-health disorders,the question at hand is whether there is evidence demonstrating a causal effect specifically from cannabis use. In fact, cannabis has shown promise in treating patients suffering from conditions ranging from autism to Alzheimer’s.

In terms of production, cannabis is more similar to fine wines or whiskey than tobacco or tea. The modern techniques of production, which have evolved in basements and loft spaces over 40 years, result in a highly differentiated product, with over 24,000 strains available to patients and consumers today.

By contrast, high-scale economies create pressure for standardisation and narrow variety, as with tobacco and tea, whereas high-learning (low-scale) economies can promote a flowering of product varieties, more akin to singlemalt whiskey or wine.

As far as first-mover advantage goes, we are in the early stages of an emerging market, and history shows a heavy cost for pioneers. It’s better to be an Apple iPhone than a Blackberry handset.

Like other emerging industries, as seen during the dotcom, airline and railway bubbles, the early hype cycle is marked by inflated expectations, short-term moneygrabbing behaviour, followed by a trough of disillusionment, which is where we’re headed now. This does, however, give way to the eventual uptake and profitability of an industry. The trick is to be greedy when everyone else is scared.

As far as bubbles go, cannabis isn’t going out of style – it remains the most widely used drug worldwide, with figures showing that 4% of the global population aged 15-64 (209 million people) had used cannabis in the past year. In the UK alone, over 2 million people reportedly use cannabis medicinally.

The problem is that over 90% ofmedicinal cannabis patients in the UK are obtaining their medicine from the black market. In fact, the UN estimates that over 50% of the supply from all legal cannabis markets still comes from the black market, and most of that falls within the premium segment. This creates an ethical dilemma; when patients have, through trial and error, found a product from the black market that offers relief from their symptoms, it is difficult to deny the value of that choice when the legal market fails to offer a product of comparable quality that offers therapeutic relief. This is where Jersey’s opportunity lies: in offering patients a legal source of premium quality “craft” cannabis.

In summary, Jersey is on the brink of an unparalleled opportunity to redefine its economic landscape and set a global benchmark in the premium cannabis market.

Leveraging our unique strengths – from our rich agricultural heritage to our forward-thinking regulatory framework – we have the potential to cultivate an industry that not only contributes significantly to our economy, but also challenges and changes global perceptions of medicinal cannabis.

By prioritising quality, innovation and safety, we can ensure that Jersey becomes synonymous with excellence in this emerging field. The journey ahead will require vision, perseverance and a collective effort to navigate the complex regulatory framework for pharmaceuticals.

However, with the right blend of leadership, innovation and community engagement, Jersey can emerge as a beacon of excellence in the global cannabis arena, fostering health, prosperity and progress for generations to come.

•Evan Smith moved to the Island in 1999.

He is the chief executive and founder of Cicada (Jersey) Ltd, a solutions provider and systems design firm that is focused on addressing the current challenges facing the cannabis industry across the entire value chain.

‘ The Island is on the brink of an unparalleled opportunity to redefine its economic landscape and set a global benchmark in the premium cannabis market

What do you think?

•What are your assumptions about cannabis? Does it have a place alongside other medicines?

•What barriers are there preventing Jersey from capitalising on this emerging market? Send your thoughts to editorial@ or #jointhedebate on social media