The Oireachtas Justice Committee has recently released a report that recommends that legislation governing drugs such as marijuana be examined by the government – and further recommends that the cultivation of some drugs on a ‘non-profit’ basis be allowed.
The report, recommends that government develop a regulatory framework for certain classes of drugs (including cannabis) as one of the ways to reduce the impact of the illegal sale and purchase of illicit or prohibited substances.
At the unveiling of the report, Fianna Fáil’s James Lawless who is chairman of the Joint Committee explained that the report is based on a ‘three-prong’ approach that will inform Irish drug legislation and policy.
These three ‘prongs’ include fast-tracking the current process toward decriminalization, improving current addiction support and examining a policy that encompasses new regulation.
The current ‘health-based’ approach towards illicit substances is being rolled out, but that process needs to be accelerated, according to Lawless.
According to Lawless, the government has already begun the process of decriminalization which has been underway for some years – but the policy needs to be strengthened and progress accelerated.
One of the hurdles that need to be dealt with is the current stigma around the use of drugs. This stigma is preventing many people from seeking help – according to the CEO of the Ana Liffey Drug Project, Tony Duffin. Duffin commented during an interview with The Journal that the stigma prevents people from seeking rehabilitation and other forms of support that are currently available.
Duffy added that decriminalization had helped countries such as Portugal reduce the stigma attached to drug use.
Duffy is of the opinion that updated regulations need to take into account the ‘Irish context’ and that it should be possible to have a ‘managed market’ that would make Black Market drugs much safer.
Duffy comments that in order for the regulations to be effective there should be a commercial product, and making that product available so that the market can be monitored, licensed, and managed. He also said that the product would then also be weighed and tested for compliance and for safety, which is not the case at the moment.
He drew a comparison between the current status and prohibition. During prohibition there were homemade products that were much stronger than would ordinarily be commercially available.
The Committee has further recommended that additional research be carried out into the drawbacks and benefits of ‘social clubs’ which are currently used to bolster members’ personal supplies of cannabis (or other illicit substances).
The past few years have seen a proliferation of these ‘clubs’ in other countries. These clubs are focused on growing cannabis for personal use, rather than for wider sale.
These clubs are operated on a ‘not for profit’ basis and usually, any profits that are generated are reinvested in the activities of the club.
The existence of these clubs received the legislative go-ahead from three countries, namely Switzerland, Uruguay, and Malta, while the clubs also operate in a legal ‘grey area’ in countries such as Spain.
Recommendations of the Report
Key recommendations include the following:
- The policy of decriminalization be fast-tracked (including possession for personal use)
The Medical Cannabis Access Programme be expanded
The drug testing pilot, first trialed at Electric Picnic be rapidly expanded
That research covered the value (if any) of ‘social clubs’ as a way to cultivate cannabis for personal use
The ‘Citizens’ Assembly’ on the subject of drugs (which has been proposed) be held as a matter of urgency
In light of the report’s findings regulation governing the cultivation of modest amounts of cannabis on a ‘non-profit’ basis be examined
It is noteworthy that the Labour Party in Ireland has long been in favor of the decriminalization of drugs in Ireland.
Labour Party spokesman, Aodhán Ó Ríordáin last month called for a firm date to be agreed upon for the Citizens’ Assembly.
He commented that the policy of the Irish government as far as criminalizing the activities of drug users is ‘archaic’ and is not compatible with the ‘health-based’ approach to the use of illicit drugs. He emphasized that the Labour party welcomes the decision to accept the motion. He added that it was time for the government to ‘get serious’ about a ‘sensible’ drug policy – and to agree on the date for the Citizens’ Assembly without delay.
He added that the Labour Party was not looking for action – and that no further delay to the Citizens’ Assembly should be tolerated. He concluded that the Assembly is a key tool that can be the driver of change in Irish society.
Gino Kenny, TD of People Before Profitwelcomed the report hailing it as both positive and progressive.’ He mentioned that he welcomed the recommendations from the Justice Committee which is progressive in terms of the issue of decriminalization, as well as both the medical marijuana legislation and the drug testing pilot scheme.
He backed up other experts by saying that the government needs to move forward as a matter of urgency – based on the recommendations that the Citizens’ Assembly on decriminalization is an essential part of decriminalization of certain drugs for personal use.
He concluded that the government needed to work more closely with ‘People Before Profit’, especially as regards the party’s ‘cannabis for personal use’ legislation (which was introduced to the Dáil in the closing days of November 2022).