Tuesday, 5 November 2013
Cannabis Regulation: Motion [Private Members]
I commend Deputy Luke 'Ming' Flanagan on tabling the motion and the tremendous work he had done in drafting the Bill he is likely to present to the House in the coming days. The Deputy deserves the commendation of the House for having the political courage and determination to take up an issue that even those who privately and, in some cases, publicly agree with him would not choose to bring before the House or fight out publicly as he is doing. He is showing considerable political courage and principle.
I hope the Government will take seriously this issue and engage properly in the debate. The onus is on it to make a case for rejecting the proposals made by Deputy Luke 'Ming' Flanagan and others who argue that we should either decriminalise or legalise cannabis.
I do not see the argument for maintaining the criminalisation of cannabis use. I do not see what case can be put forward.
I will be interested to hear what the opponents of the motion say. I presume it has something to do with health. Let us put a simple fact on the record: there has never been a death in Ireland attributable to cannabis use, not one. "Drugs" is a broad, catch all and almost meaningless term. In what is put under the banner of the label "drugs", virtually every other item leads to deaths, many of which are attributable to the use of those things. We know about deaths due to the smoking of cigarettes, deaths due to the excessive use of alcohol, not to mention family violence, relationship break-up, violence in the community and deaths on the road. We know prescription drugs can potentially be very dangerous. There are serious question marks over the long-term use of antidepressants even though they are prescribed to thousands of people. Painkillers can be bought over the counter but can potentially have serious adverse effects on people's health. Cannabis, of all the substances under the general heading, has not been responsible for a single death. That is not to say cannabis is always good although it is clear there are medicinal uses. Of all the things loosely called drugs, the least harmful is cannabis. If the Government is going to be consistent in how it deals with the drugs issue, unless the Government bans alcohol, cigarettes and antidepressants, one cannot sustain the position of keeping cannabis use criminal.
The biggest adverse impact of cannabis use relates to the fact that it is criminalised. This pushes cannabis users and producers into the criminal world in which they would otherwise not be. In so far as there are damaging, worrying, social impacts of cannabis use, they are almost exclusively related to the fact it is illegal. We know how the prohibition of alcohol in the 1930s spawned the growth of the mafia, with damage to American society for decades afterwards. It seems obvious that the same applies here. I would like to hear what the Government has to say but it seems that, at the very least, it should accept the motion and allow the Bill to pass to the next stage to begin a serious, adult discussion about this important social issue.