Wednesday, 6 November 2013
Cannabis Regulation: Motion (Resumed) [Private Members]
Yes, but he criticised me for not dealing with the health effects of using cannabis and now he is not present to hear what I have to say. Those are the facts.
The first thing I want to do is to thank Deputy Dowds and, in particular, Deputy Paul Connaughton, for making what was the bravest statement I have yet heard in respect of this issue. I am in a position to put the motion before the House because I am not in government and will not, therefore, face as much criticism. However, Deputy Connaughton may be obliged to face much criticism. I congratulate him on what he said and I think his voters will thank him for it. I also thank Deputy Keating for showing himself up for what he is. Perhaps the contribution he made will be covered in his local newspaper. If it is, perhaps the Deputy might deliver copies of the newspaper to his constituents in order that they will know he is tough on drugs. There are loads of votes in that.
When commencing the debate on the motion before the House, I indicated my belief that it is no longer radical to talk about legalising cannabis. I also referred to the practical steps that must be taken in order to regulate its use. I now intend to discuss the myths associated with the negative health effects of using cannabis and also the amount of money we could obtain for the State through legalisation.
The first myth I wish to explode is that cannabis produces adult amotivational syndrome. A World Health Organization report produced in 1998 addresses this issue and states that it is doubtful that cannabis use produces a well-defined amotivational syndrome. In addition, a survey on drug prevalence - to which the Minister, Deputy Reilly, referred - conducted by the National Advisory Committee on Drugs and Alcohol in 2010 and 2011 found that lifetime and previous-year rates for cannabis use on the island of Ireland are highest among professionals, senior management and top civil servants. Some people would probably offer the latter as an argument to ban cannabis. The study also revealed that lifetime prevalence rates for usage were highest among those with third level educations. It does not sound as if it is demotivating people.
The claim that cannabis causes cancer has to be the biggest joke of all time. The largest study of its kind unexpectedly concluded that smoking cannabis, even regularly and heavily, does not lead to the development of lung cancer. I have previously quoted studies conducted by Dr. Donald Tashkin which suggested that smoking cannabis is more harmful than smoking tobacco. Dr. Tashkin has changed his mind and, unfortunately, the US Food and Drug Administration, FDA, does not appear to want him to work for it now that he has discovered cannabis is not that harmful. Dr. Tashkin indicated that the findings from the study to which I refer were against expectations. Dr. Tashkin works at the University of California, Los Angeles. This should be good news for the Minister because Dr. Tashkin is a pulmonologist who has studied cannabis for 30 years. He is on record as stating:
We hypothesized that there would be a positive association between marijuana use and lung cancer [logical enough], and that the association would be more positive with heavier use. [...] What we found instead was no association at all, and even a suggestion of some protective effect.I was also surprised by the findings because I would have argued that smoking cannabis might not be the ideal method of ingestion. As it turns out, however, Dr. Tashkin has changed his mind. I suggest that we invite him to come before the Joint Committee on Health and Children in order that we can debunk the myth that cannabis causes lung cancer for ever. I challenge the Minister to issue such an invitation.