Weed go well together: Gino Kenny TD proposes cannabis decriminalisation 

Parliamentary discussions have begun in the Oireachtas after People Before Profit TD Gino Kenny brought forward a proposal set to decriminalise cannabis by amending the Misuse of Drugs Act. 

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The Oireachtas held the first stage of the debate on Thursday 24 November where Gino Kenny TD spoke about his proposal on the need to amend the law that criminalises cannabis possession for adults. 

If passed, the bill — Misuse of Drugs (Cannabis Regulation) Bill 2022 — would mean that adults would be allowed to carry up to 7 grams of cannabis or 2.5 grams of cannabis resin, in public, without facing criminal charges for possession. 

Kenny mentioned how Ireland has changed its perception of drugs over the last ten years — when the bill was initially brought into Parliament — and how it’s a “waste of time” criminalising somebody for carrying small quantities of the plant. 

“I believe the existing legislation is out of date and out of time. We need a different narrative around drug reform. Criminalising people for possession of small quantities of any drug, and particularly cannabis, is a complete waste of time,” said Kenny. 

“Ironically, all drugs in schedule A are controlled drugs. That means that the only people who are allowed to have them is the State. Instead, we have the opposite. The cannabis market is controlled by organised crime. Why allow that to happen? Why keep allowing that to happen? We need to take back control and stop criminalising people,” he added.  

He spoke on how the government talks about “harm reduction” and “health-led” approaches to cannabis, yet they still have made no effort to decriminalise it, but instead punished people with criminal convictions. 

Also, he mentioned how the law “deters” people from “possessing, selling or cultivating” cannabis, and instead, it has created more attention in the direction of the black market, a system far more dangerous than if it were to be controlled by the Government. 

“The legislation we have now is meant to deter people from possessing, selling or cultivating cannabis but it has done the opposite. It has driven it underground and has made it largely controlled by the black market. A better system is one that is controlled by the State. It is a system that is best for everybody whether one uses cannabis or not,” said Kenny.

There has been some confusion in the debate where people believe that cannabis will become legalised and available to purchase in Ireland. The bill only intends to stop the criminalisation and marginalisation of people who use cannabis for recreational use. It doesn’t permit the legal distribution, growing, or purchasing of cannabis. 

Although, if the bill were to be passed through and made official through the law, it could be a significant step in the legalisation of cannabis in Ireland. 

Other European countries such as Malta and Germany are now decriminalising and legalising cannabis for the recreational use of adults, sparking more debate than ever before on the medicinal and positive uses of cannabis, “Different parts of the world are looking at different models which do not criminalise people and which take a harm-reduction approach,” said Kenny. 

In 2021, Malta became the first EU member country to legalise the cultivation of cannabis for personal use so that the country can make revenue, but also, to make sure that cannabis products are safe to take — rather than having no solution to the illegal selling of synthetic or ‘laced’ cannabis.

Cannabis is a very popular drug in Ireland and in Europe, with over a quarter of European inhabitants having used it at least once in their life, according to Statista. In a 2021 report by Statista, it was recorded that 46% of cannabis users used the drug daily, 21% used it twice to six times a week, 10% used it once a week or less, and 23% have not used it in the past month.

The National Drugs and Alcohol Survey (NDAS) 2019-2020 conducted by the Health Research Board found that; over 800,000 (20.7%) Irish people have used cannabis at least once in their life, over 200,000 (5.9%) people who have used cannabis within the last year, and over 100,000 (2.9%) people who have used cannabis in the last month. 

Today, Ireland lies among the top ten countries in Europe in terms of the prevalence of cannabis use among adults, with approximately 7.1% (over 360,000) of the population who have used cannabis in the last year. 

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