Ireland Aims To Legalize Cannabis For Personal Use
Ireland joins the cannabis conversation in Europe, introducing a bill to legalize recreational cannabis for personal use.
The Irish Parliament (or Oireachtas) will discuss a bill introduced by the People Before Profit MP (or Teachta Dála, TD) Gino Kenny aiming to legalize adult-use cannabis for personal use.
The bill aims to modify the Misuse of Drug Act entered into effect in 1977 by allowing adults of at least 18 years of age to possess up to 7 grams of cannabis or 2.5 grams of cannabis resin (hashish).
The bill doesn't include the sale of cannabis products or the cultivation of cannabis plants for personal use. Therefore, cannabis users will likely continue to purchase cannabis from the illegal market.
"The Bill is quite moderate. It amends existing legislation that dates back 42 years. Forty-two years is a very long time. I believe the existing legislation is out of date and out of time. We need a different narrative around drug reform," said TD Kenny during the debate in the Dáil Éireann, the lower house of the Irish Parliament.
The bill needs to be voted by the Dáil to be approved and will amend the Misuse of Drugs Act.
Meanwhile, the debate over the bill is expected to occur early next year.
"I hope the Government can support this legislation. It is timely. Different parts of the world are looking at different models which do not criminalize people and which take a harm-reduction approach. I look forward to the debate," continued TD Kenny.
The move seems to act more as a form of decrminalization to stop prosecuting cannabis users than an effort to legalize cannabis for personal use.
The way Ireland is moving to change its cannabis policy differs from the attempt of other European countries.
For instance, Malta, the first EU member to legalize cannabis for personal use in December 2021, also regulated the cultivation of cannabis plants, an essential element to contain the illicit market's revenue and guarantee safer products.
But if the amendment is approved, it may lead the cannabis conversation to the next step and debate around cannabis cultivation for personal use.
Although the amendment may receive support from many people and cannabis advocates, the London-based advocacy and communications organization Volteface reported that it would be complicated to get support from the Government because the current coalition between Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil, and the Green party don't have a favorable stance over cannabis policy.
Furthermore, the bill could face challenges to being approved because even though some TDs may personally agree to amend the Misuse of Drug Act, they would vote against it because of their party's political address.
In an interview with the Irish Independent, Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Micheál Martin warned against cannabis being "glamorized" following the bill.
"I think we have to be careful that we don't glamorize cannabis either because there are real concerns within the health community and the medical community about what cannabis can do to young people," he said, adding that he would be in favor of a more healthcare-based approach to addiction and warned about the harms of cannabis.
"I would prefer a system that decriminalizes in the sense that it were there to help people with challenges with harmful substances such as cannabis. Cannabis can do real harm too, to young people, and many people in the medical world have said that to me. That's just a concern I have. I've been a strong advocate for the facilitation of medical cannabis for people," he said.
Martin said the government would consult the Gardaí, the national police service of Ireland, when considering the bill, adding that he is a big advocate for it to be used for medicinal purposes.
Although recreational cannabis is still illegal, Ireland has recently regulated access to some medical cannabis products for specific medical conditions.
However, the medical cannabis program still faces some issues, and patients are subjected to Health Ministry's approval to access treatment with medical cannabis.
Earlier this year, the Irish Government started preparing for a Citizens' Assembly on Drug Use in 2023, which will bring people together to discuss significant legal and policy concerns and make recommendations to the Oireachtas, and it could represent an opportunity to discuss the bill to legalize cannabis possession for personal use.
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