Wednesday, 6 November 2013
Cannabis Regulation: Motion (Resumed) [Private Members]
What happened during the period in question? Researchers found no increase in the diagnosis of schizophrenia or other psychotic disorders and some of the data even suggested the incidence of these conditions had decreased during the period. In the past two weeks the director of Schizophrenia Ireland, Mr. John Saunders, stated cannabis use did not cause schizophrenia but that he would advise people with schizophrenia to stay away from the substance. I would do likewise, although I would also advise them to stay away from alcohol, Red Bull and a variety of other products. What I would not do is turn them into criminals for using these products. Dr. Frisher's study does not support a scientific causal link between cannabis use and the incidence of psychotic disorders. Its findings are in line with those of other reports which indicate that increases in population cannabis use have not been followed by increases in the incidence of psychotic disorders.
I propose to outline the argument for legalising cannabis for financial reasons. Professor David Nutt who today won the 2013 John Maddox Prize for Standing Up for Science estimates that alcohol use in this country would drop by 25% if cannabis was legalised. As the Minister is aware, the damage caused by alcohol has been estimated to cost the country €3.4 billion every year. Reducing alcohol use would inevitably save money. In addition, legalisation would free 100,000 people with a criminal record to increase their economic activity because they are currently prohibited from working in a decent job. Even if the average increase in the value of economic activity among this group were only €1,000 per annum, it would be worth €100 million to the economy.
It is estimated that 150,000 people in Ireland use cannabis. If users paid 33% tax on their cannabis purchases and average expenditure was €100 per month, it would be worth €60 million to the economy. Moreover, the State would no longer incur the cost to the judicial system and the Garda Síochána of arresting 8,000 people per annum for cannabis possession. A study in Israel estimates that legalising cannabis would be worth $450 million to the Israeli economy. It would not be an exaggeration to argue that legalisation would have a similar benefit here.
I propose that Deputies vote for the motion because the legalisation of cannabis would be a wonderful step for the country.