Legalisation and regulation of drugs like cannabis should be examined by Govt, TDs say
16th December 2022
A NEW REPORT by the Oireachtas Justice Committee has recommended that legalisation of certain drugs be examined by the Government as well as allowing some drug cultivation at a “non-profit” level.
The report, published this morning, recommends that the Government examines a regulatory model for certain drugs, including cannabis, as part of measures to reduce the impact of the existing black market for illicit substances.
Speaking this morning, chair of the Joint Committee, Fianna Fáil’s James Lawless said that the report was based on a “three-pronged approach” to Irish drug policy.
He said that these prongs were speeding up the current process of decriminalisation, examining a policy of drug regulation and improving existing addiction supports.
While Lawless said that the current health-based approach to drugs is currently being brought in, it needed to be accelerated.
“There’s already a commencement on that journey [of decriminalisation], we’ve seen that in recent years but that policy should be doubled down on and accelerated,” said Lawless.
The Journal spoke with Tony Duffin, CEO of the Ana Liffey Drug Project, last week who said that the current stigma surrounding drug use is preventing people from coming forward for help.
“Stigma is a huge issue. It does prevent people from coming forward to access treatment and rehabilitation and other supports,” Duffin said.
He added that the process of decriminalisation, which has been brought in by countries like Portugal, had helped reduce that stigma.
On the regulation of drugs, Lawless said that it needed to be examined in an “Irish context” and that a “managed market” could make drugs that currently exist on the black market safer.
“In the regulation would be a concept of actually having a commercial product and having the product available, which can be monitored, managed, licenced, weighed, tested for compliance, for safety, for content in a way that it clearly is not at the moment,” he said.
He compared it to prohibition, when there were homemade alcohol products available that were much stronger than what would have been available commercially.
The committee also recommended that “further research” be carried out into the benefits and drawbacks of drug “social clubs”, which can be used to grow personal supplies of cannabis or other substances for members.
These clubs have appeared in other countries in recent years, with clubs organising the cultivation of cannabis for the personal needs of members, rather than for sale.
They are generally operated on a non-profit basis, with any profits generated expected to go back into the club to benefit members.
Three countries have put these clubs on a legislative footing: Malta, Switzerland and Uruguay, while clubs exist in countries like Spain under legal grey areas.
Some of the key recommendations by the committee include;
- The expansion of the Medical Cannabis Access Programme
- The rapid expansion of the drug testing pilot-scheme, first trialled at Electric Picnic
- That research be carried out into the pros and cons of ‘social clubs’ as a means through which to grow personal supplies of cannabis
- That the proposed Citizens’ Assembly on drugs be held as soon as possible
- That the practice of cultivation of currently illicit substances at a modest, non-profit level be examined in light of above recommendations in order to regulate such activity
The Labour Party has also long been calling for the decriminalisation of drugs in Ireland.
Late last month, the party’s justice spokesperson Aodhán Ó Ríordáin called for a firm date to be put on the Citizens’ Assembly.
He said: “The policy of this government to criminalise drug users is archaic and incompatible with a health led approach to drugs. We welcome the decision to accept this motion, however we call on the government to get serious about sensible drug policy and to set a date for a Citizens’ Assembly on drugs without any further delay.
“We are now looking for action to be taken and for a firm date to be confirmed for a Citizens’ Assembly on drugs without any more delay. The Citizens’ Assembly is a key tool that is paramount to change in this society.”
People Before Profit TD Gino Kenny has today welcomed the report, calling it a positive and progressive move.
“I very much welcome this recommendation from the Justice Committee. It is a progressive move- especially around decriminalisation, the medicinal cannabis access programme, and the drug testing pilot scheme,” Gino said.
“The emphasis is now firmly on the government to move on this recommendation and convene the Citizens’ Assembly on decriminalisation of drugs for personal use.”
He added that the Government needed to work with People Before Profit on the party’s cannabis for personal use bill, which was introduced into the Dáil in late November.