Dáil debates

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Cannabis Regulation: Motion (Resumed) [Private Members]


8:05 pm

Photo of John HalliganJohn Halligan (Waterford, Independent) | Oireachtas source

I do not know about that. We could do with more time to debate this issue and perhaps when the Bill is brought before the House, we will have. I refer to a letter I have received which reads as follows:

Dear John,

I am at the end of my tether. I am only fit to throw myself in the river. I honestly need your compassion and co-operation when you read this letter. Please let me explain my position to your good self. My son is a helpless addict who over the past few months has been trying to kick the despicable habit but in the interim myself and my family are at our wits end and are really suffering because of the terrible affliction.
Today I have received a telephone call from a mother whose 25 year old son has been missing since Saturday. Approximately one year ago he took some bad cocaine and suffers from schizophrenia. She is panicking. I hope to meet the family on Friday. These are two ordinary people who have serious problems and it can be replicated throughout the country. They have not commented on whether it should be legalised or decriminalised. They just want something to be done.

I have made a point of speaking to as many people as I can, particularly in the south east, and the vast majority have told me they would be against legalisation. I am not against decriminalising cannabis. Approximately 150,000 people have a criminal record for smoking a joint which prohibits them from leaving the country and this criminal record stays with them. We should, therefore, consider decriminalising it. My problem is that we tend to do things to excess in Ireland.

We must consider the situation with excessive alcohol abuse, particularly among young children, and when I say young, I mean those well below 18 years of age, as well as those over that age who can get it legally. My worry is that if we were to legalise cannabis and make it available, the associated and combined problems of dealing with issues of excess in this country would be catastrophic. For that reason, I cannot support the legalisation aspect of this motion. I would most certainly be prepared to listen to a number of people over the next couple of months, which I plan to do. I have agreed to meet a chief superintendent from the British police, who may actually be in the Visitors Gallery at present. I will telephone him later and I hope to meet him tomorrow to get his view on what happens in Britain. I know the UK is currently considering a big re-think of its drugs policy, which may lead to cannabis and other drugs being legalised in the UK, although I do not know that.

I want to conclude by saying this is a very worthwhile debate and motion. It is something we cannot avoid, given the excessive use of illegal and legal drugs in Ireland. I hope that, at some stage, if Deputy Flanagan introduces his Bill, the Government will allow a lot more time to debate this because it is a worthwhile debate which will be watched by families all over this country.


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