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In-Depth Coverage Of The Irish And European Markets

€30 million in cannabis seized at points of entry in 2022.

The value of cannabis seized at Ireland's key points of entry in 2022 was €30.9 million. While the estimated street value of large once-off seizures and the overvaluation of the street value of cannabis can skew final figures, a total of 1,682 kg of cannabis was seized according to the most recent information available from Revenue & Customs.

Cannabis seized at our ports and airports has doubled and tripled since 2019, illustrating the prevalence of cannabis across Irish society. In 2019 a total of €10 million of cannabis was seized. In 2020 this increased to €28 million, and in 2021 this increased again to €32.4 million. Despite these increasing figures, the seizures have done little to reduce supply. Head of Revenue customs Tom Talbot previously stated the amount of drugs intercepted at ports “could be as low” as 5-10% of all drugs trafficked into Ireland – similar to other countries. Given these estimates, the true value of cannabis coming into Ireland through our ports of entry could be in the region of €300 million per year. Additionally, these figures do not account for cannabis that may be grown in Ireland.

These figures bring attention to the issue of illegal drug trafficking and the need for a more comprehensive approach to drug policy in Ireland, where regulation would not only help reduce the black market but also create a safer and more controlled environment for those who consume cannabis.

Across the seas, we see countries increasingly reforming their approach to cannabis with a range of regulatory options available such as social clubs/associations and a fully legal market. These countries saw a monumental increase in their tax revenue following legalisation. In Colorado, whose population and demographics are similar to Ireland's, the cannabis industry achieved more than $1.7 billion in sales in 2022, generating $325.1 million in taxes and business fees. In total, since regulating cannabis in 2014, Colorado has collected $2.34 billion in cannabis taxes and fees.

While maximising tax revenue should not be the key driver behind reform, it should be seen as a welcomed additional benefit. It is also important that any tax revenue gained from cannabis is ringfenced to address public health interventions, social programmes, and treatment services. This is not a new or novel idea, in Oregon 20% of taxes go directly to mental health, alcohol and drug services, and a further 5% directly to the health authority for alcohol and abuse prevention. In Illinois, 20% of states taxes to community services to address substance abuse, prevention, and mental health concerns, with a further 2% allocated for education and analysis of the public health impact.

With over €30 million in cannabis seized at our points of entry, if that was taxed at 23% here, it would add an extra €710,000 to the public purse. If the estimate above is correct, with nearly €300 million of cannabis coming through ports of entry, the more accurate revenue intake would be close to €69,000,000 in revenue if taxed at 23%. This is not inclusive of other revenue benefits such as jobs, PRSI, PAYE, USC and other taxes that may be included in a regulated market.

This is solely for cannabis seized at ports of entry, it does not include domestic seizures, and does not include the flourishing illegal undetected cannabis market. Despite growing support for cannabis reform in Ireland, the Irish Government has been slow to act and has decided to leave the faith of our future in the hands of an upcoming citizens' assembly. As the global conversation around cannabis continues to evolve, the Irish government must keep pace and consider the potential benefits that legalization and regulation could bring. The continued seizures of illegal cannabis at Irish ports are a reminder of the urgent need for action and the importance of a comprehensive approach to drug policy in the country.

In the meantime, cannabis advocacy groups and patients will continue to call for reform, hoping that the government will listen to the growing demand for change and take the necessary steps to create a safer, more controlled, and more equitable environment for all those involved


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