It’s not often financiers and politicians say something sensible and modern about drugs or technology, but two from the Isle of Man have done just that.
Allan Bell MHK, chief minister of the island, told Spear’s about his views on drug use: ‘I do believe cannabis should be decriminalised for personal use, but I particularly believe it should be decriminalised for medicinal research. It seems unacceptable to me that most countries are restricting the ability of researchers to investigate the medical benefits of cannabis, when people are crying out for that medical treatment.’ Bell also mentioned the ‘business opportunity for all countries to develop medical treatment’ from cannabis.
Although Uruguay, Portugal, Jamaica and parts of the USA have decriminalised cannabis recently, such a policy on the Isle of Man will no doubt attract controversy. Whitehall has largely reversed the more liberal reclassifications of the early 2000s and the opportunity to purchase drugs on Man may attract some unsavoury elements, looking to exploit the legal deficit between Man and the mainland.
Meanwhile, John Spellman, the director of financial services for the Isle of Man, told journalists last week that the island will support people who want to trade in digital currencies like Bitcoin. ‘The Isle of Man wants to see a proper regime in place that defends against money laundering and ultimately protects the consumer. History has taught us neither prohibition nor ignoring emerging social trends works.’
The value of digital currencies may prove a double-edged sword. Bitcoin rose in value from $13 to $800 between 2013 and 2014 and there is a fear they are a money launderer’s godsend. Networks such as Tor, home of the infamous Silk Road site, champion the anonymous and have utilised Bitcoin and other, even more untraceable, alternatives such as Torcoin and Dogecoin.
‘The Isle of Man recognises both the risks and opportunities presented by digital and virtual currencies,’ said Peter Greenhill, the department of economic development’s director of e-business development. ‘We are conscious of issues that have surrounded these activities but also can identify serious and credible entrants to the market wishing to explore this innovative technology. Therefore, the government has instructed the relevant departments and statutory bodies to ensure there is a regime that promotes business opportunities.’
As seen with both of these issues, the Isle of Man takes a libertarian approach, says Bell: ‘Our ambition is to give business the freedom to flourish, we discourage heavy handed regulation and over control, but equally we want the individual to flourish here as a human being and enjoy all aspects of their own lives.’
And if these trends combine, you could end up buying cannabis with Bitcoin on the Isle of Man completely legally. Brave new world.