Dáil debates

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Cannabis Regulation: Motion (Resumed) [Private Members]


7:35 pm

Photo of Mary Mitchell O'ConnorMary Mitchell O'Connor (Dún Laoghaire, Fine Gael) | Oireachtas source

As a member of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Health and Children, I am opposed to this ill-thought-out motion. It is unreasonable and, frankly, reckless, as well as dangerous. Cannabis can have a devastating effect on an individual's mental and physical health. I strongly oppose this motion for several reasons. First, the argument that a substance is not addictive is frankly laughable and dopey. Addiction is described as an insatiable craving for a substance that produces a desired result. The use of cannabis produces an effect that is highly addictive.

Second, the health effects of cannabis cannot be ignored. The resulting impacts of recreational use negate the pro arguments for legalising cannabis. Studies have shown that an individual's mental health is particularly vulnerable to cannabis use and its negative effects. For example, research has shown that the number of those suffering from depression doubled and anxiety was five times higher in users than in non-users. In the short term, users may also experience paranoia or hallucinations. Cannabis has been shown to increase the risk of lung cancer, increasing the likelihood by 8% for every year of use. It can increase an individual's heart rate and the likelihood of a stroke. I question the introduction of a motion that would propagate the use of a substance that could only have a negative effect on the health of our society.

As a parent, the negative effects cannabis has on young people cause me great concern. I would never recommend its use to my sons or to any other young person. Cannabis use is highest among people aged 15 to 24 years, which has worrying implications. This is the period when the brain is developing. Young people using cannabis during this vital stage are at risk of cognitive impairment, decreasing academic performance or depression. It would be reckless to give our young people a message that cannabis is harmless. The legislation referred to in the motion would undoubtedly result in an increase in the availability of cannabis in our society. Despite Deputy Luke 'Ming' Flanagan's inclusion of age restrictions, I believe young people would find it easier to access this substance than ever before. Unfortunately, we need only look at the figures for under-age drinking to know that age restrictions are not always effective. I believe provision No. 17, regarding home-cultivated cannabis, is an inadequate measure to prevent young people from accessing cannabis in their homes. The idea that a lockable space will thwart a teenager's curiosity is idealistic and, at best, ludicrous. Children always know where the sweets are kept. Teenagers have all discovered their parent's drinks cabinets.


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