Dáil debates

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Cannabis Regulation: Motion (Resumed) [Private Members]


7:45 pm

Photo of Joe HigginsJoe Higgins (Dublin West, Socialist Party) | Oireachtas source

The motion before the Dáil calls for the Government to introduce legislation to regulate the cultivation, sale and possession of cannabis and cannabis products in Ireland. I support that. I welcome Deputy Luke 'Ming' Flanagan's motion and the discussion it is giving rise to. It is not a question of being for cannabis use as a recreational outlet any more than one is for the use of ethyl alcohol or nicotine. It is a matter of realising that drugs have been used by humanity for thousands of years and will continue to be used. Just about every drug can have harmful side effects and consequences especially if over indulged in.

The question for me is what is the most effective means of achieving harm reduction with regard to any drug available in society, legally or illegally, and how best to have a situation where people can appreciate whatever enjoyment or relaxation they get from drugs but minimise the ill effects on people and society. The best way to do this for cannabis is to decriminalise and regulate its production, supply and use.

It is beyond doubt that people suffering from some very difficult diseases can ease their suffering by taking cannabis and it is cruel beyond belief to deny them the right to do that. Cannabis derives from a natural herb. Why, in medicine, should it be banned while multinational pharmaceutical companies make a fortune creating synthetic drugs at huge cost to achieve what a natural product could do?

In a situation where cannabis use was decriminalised totally I would be opposed to its production or supply becoming a source of enrichment by private corporations in particular. There should be a State monopoly on any new drug that would be legalised and regulated in our society. There should be no advertising, simply factual information on the quality and quantity etc. where it would be available, and nothing more. Cannabis should not be an opportunity for profiteering by private corporations.

The biggest drug pushers in this State are pillars of the Irish establishment and carry on their business legally. They push nicotine and, in particular, ethyl alcohol, and the drug pushing companies that do this are feted in society. Ministers regularly rub shoulders with them at sporting events and other events that the alcohol industry sponsors.

I have no doubt that some of the politicians who were in here denouncing the motion also rubbed shoulders with sponsors and went to events sponsored by them. Perhaps they even looked for sponsorship for some of their local clubs. There is a massive hypocrisy in this country with regard to the fact that these drugs, while legal, are extremely dangerous drugs. Yet, people want to come in and criminalise a substantial section of the population that wants to use a different drug of choice that arguably and realistically does or has the potential to do far less damage.

I believe also that the regulation called for would remove these cutthroat gangsters from the scene, their enrichment and the damage they do to society, because they do not discriminate between the likes of cannabis and far more lethal drugs that bring havoc in inner city societies and other parts of the country. These gangsters would be seriously weakened if cannabis was taken from the shadows and reality recognised.

Capitalism and its manifestation of austerity creates huge problems and harm for society. For example, the current crisis all over Europe creates massive suffering, mental, physical and social. Many people seek relief from that suffering in drugs, mostly legal drugs. They over indulge and do themselves huge damage. I believe in this motion and in building a society where there is enough and plenty for every human being, where the pressures brought about by austerity and the financial market system are reduced and eliminated so that people can have decent and free lives. Then, with less pressure on them, they will be in a much better frame of mind to choose what drugs they will or will not use. This would lessen significantly the damage that is being done by all kinds of legal drugs in society at this time.


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