Dáil debates

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Cannabis Regulation: Motion (Resumed) [Private Members]


7:15 pm

Photo of Michelle MulherinMichelle Mulherin (Mayo, Fine Gael) | Oireachtas source

The push to legalise cannabis, thanks to social media and the current proponents of legalisation, seems new but it is not. This is, in fact, a tired old story rehashing a case already lost some decades ago. Past generations, particularly during the freewheeling decade of the 1960s in both Europe and the United States, seriously experimented openly with all sorts of so-called mind-expanding drugs, including cannabis. They included people from all walks of society and professionals from all disciplines who, at the time, heralded that drug-embracing era as an advancement for civilization and mankind and as a gateway to enlightenment. However, that lifestyle was ultimately left behind by most and ultimately rejected because youth's urge to rebel is tempered by life experience and reveals the sobering truth about taking drugs. The people to whom I refer are the grandparents of today and they have, in effect, heard it all before. They could tell us things and impart wisdom if only we would listen. Cannabis and the many other drugs remain banned substances in many western countries for very good reason: they are drugs.

In addition to requiring food, drink and clean air, human health requires a healthy mind. Everything else can be considered secondary. Drugs, in particular, are an antidote to ill-health and are prescribed by qualified doctors to aid recovery or ease discomfort for the incurable. The significant compelling body of medical evidence and research shows the misuse of cannabis, especially long-term use, poses a significant risk of heart and lung problems, cancer and serious mental health problems, including paranoia, schizophrenia and depression. Frighteningly, its use from a young age can impair brain development. Therefore, the push to legalise banned substances by proponents outside the medical profession is nothing more than self-indulgence disguised as concern for the ill or the economy. It is this duplicity that makes the case for the drug seem like a product of its influence rather than that of sound judgment.

Mind-bending drugs are just that: mind bending. They impair judgment and, therefore, render the user unfit to make judgments for the reasonable citizens of any serious nation and its governing bodies. However, there is no admission to this by proponents. We do not wish to have our police, doctors, judges or policy-makers under any influence other than that of a sound mind. Who can say precisely what those under the influence are thinking or channelling such that they might be held accountable to the rest of society? We do not want to ride buses, trains or planes driven by drivers or pilots under the influence of anything other than their training and the experience that featured in their job description when they were interviewed for their jobs. Those who wish to see a banned substance legalised on no ground other than its being deemed harmless or the ground that law enforcement has failed to curb the problem are under an influence that the serious sober-minded individual could never possibly understand or subscribe to. It would seem that in the mind-altered state anything is possible.

The main reason the substance in question remains banned is control. I refer to control over how we govern its use, as we do with alcohol and, to a lesser extent, tobacco, and to control by the user. One cannot prescribe the minimum amount for safe use nor control its abuse. Those who take it are under an influence hard or impossible to detect. What that influence becomes when combined with alcohol and other prescribed drugs is unknown.

Older societies, such as that of the Native Americans, restricted drug use to the initiated and its social use was always within prescribed rituals with very specific goals. Its indiscriminate use by individuals was taboo and would have incurred penalties because it was deemed antisocial. Today, the fragmentation of society would make the lifting of the ban on the use of cannabis, which would doubtlessly increase its use, a dangerous social experiment with no means of controlling its abuse by a minority of people who are susceptible to influences that lead them to antisocial behaviour.

As it is, gardaí have their work cut out for them policing the parameters of the legal use of alcohol. Adding drugs to that mix would be irresponsible of any Government, if not down right reckless endangerment of our citizens. I completely oppose the motion before us.


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