Wednesday, 6 November 2013
Cannabis Regulation: Motion (Resumed) [Private Members]
In my remarks on this subject, I really want to dwell on the wider issue rather than just cannabis. In that sense, I welcome the fact there is a motion on drugs being discussed, even if that motion is only on one drug that is deemed relatively minor in terms of the harm it does. I call on the Government to set up a high-powered committee to report within a year on how best to tackle illegal drugs and drug-related crime. I do so because I see every day in many parts of my constituency the considerably negative effects of both legal and illegal drugs. These effects manifest themselves in a number of ways, including antisocial behaviour, intimidation, violence and even death. In one area of my constituency, which overlaps with the neighbouring constituency, there have been 16 murders in the past four years. Many of these deaths, if not most, bear a relationship with drugs, either legal or illegal. Almost as bad is the fact that there have been attempted murders, sometimes with really grim results. For example, in a case made known to me personally, a totally innocent man was shot and left unable to speak or walk. That is why I call for immediate action to examine how best to deal with the wider issue of tackling illegal drugs. They are very much linked to criminality. We are not getting on top of the problem. In conversations I have had with local gardaí, I heard them say that, at most, they seize 10% of drugs that come in illegally. We must recognise that our current approach is not working. The issue of cannabis is a minor aspect of this.
Considering that Ireland is a small country, I am very conscious of the fact that, irrespective of what we do regarding cannabis or other drugs, it would probably be better if we could work out a across-Border agreement on how to deal with drugs. In the meantime, we could learn something from the experience of Portugal. From what I could find out, Portugal seems to tackle not so much those handling small amounts of drugs for personal use but those who engage in supply. In Portugal, drug abuse among those between 13 and 15 since 2001 has fallen from 14.1% to 10%. HIV infection has dropped by 17% and drug trafficking has decreased. The number of drug-related deaths has decreased by approximately one third.
We have a great deal of work to do to tackle the issue generally. I understand that cannabis is very minor matter in this regard. The Government really needs to set up a high-powered committee to report within a year on how best to tackle illegal drugs and drug-related crime. It is the most vulnerable communities with the weakest voice in this Chamber who would benefit most from that. For that reason, I feel it is my duty to speak for them so they will stop suffering in the way they have had to suffer for so long.