The Government should decriminalise cannabis as a minimum step and as a first step along the road in the ongoing debate, Donegal Independent Deputy Thomas Pringle told the Dáil.
He said according to the evidence on the decriminalisation of drugs for personal use in Portugal, it has had an impact in reducing addiction levels and the number of drug-related deaths. “That is something we should debate, and we should move towards decriminalisation,” he said.
Speaking in the Dáil on a motion tabled by Independent Deputy Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan, he said the debate on the regulation of cannabis is something for which the public is ready.
“It is something we should discuss,” he said. “It would be worthwhile if what came out of this motion was that we could devise a system that would effectively control the strength and distribution of cannabis and provide for education on addiction and misuse, because that is something that we need to address. We need to ensure that if we regulate cannabis, it is regulated in a way that we can control.”
“If we were having this debate about alcohol and we were looking at regulating alcohol today, we certainly would not regulate it in the way in which its use has evolved in society over the past couple of thousand years,” he said. “We would have a debate that was different and we would be looking at alcohol in a different way. When we looks at the addiction alcohol causes and the toll of alcohol addiction across society, we can see that we have to be very careful about unintended consequences and the possibility, if we regulate cannabis use, that of opening up a similar addiction problem. There is no doubt that alcohol addiction is causing significant problems across society. I and every family in Ireland have personal experience of alcohol addiction and alcohol abuse and know the havoc that it can wreak. I do not believe that cannabis addiction would be as severe if cannabis was regulated properly from the start, but it is interesting that the 2013 bulletin of the National Advisory Committee on Drugs and Alcohol stated that 9% of recent cannabis users were classified as being dependent on cannabis.”
That figure is based on 3% of the population who are regular users, which is quite a low figure, but that could be because of the difficulty in accessing cannabis for use, he said. “If we can devise a system that will allow cannabis to be controlled effectively and provide education on the use and misuse of cannabis, the legislation referred to in the motion could be worthwhile. This is something that we need to look at.”
The motion to legalise cannabis was defeated by 112 votes to 8.