On Thursday People Before Profit TD, Gino Kenny will introduce an amendment to the Misuse of Drugs Act 1977 which will act as a stepping stone towards a sensible cannabis policy in Ireland. The Bill will aim to decriminalise up to 7g of cannabis, and 2.5g of cannabis resin. Mr Kenny has long advocated for cannabis reform in Ireland and has fought for access to medicinal cannabis since being elected to the Dáil in 2016.
The introduction of the bill will be the first time in 10 years that a bill will seek to amend the prohibition of cannabis. Although the Bill does not address the cultivation of cannabis, decriminalising personal possession of cannabis is an important first step in reform.
What is Decriminalisation
When a person is caught with cannabis for personal use, criminal charges are brought against the person. The person is then managed through the criminal justice system, a process which can often take years to complete. The drug itself is not legal, it is not under any regulatory regime, and remains illegal to import which will still carry penalties. Put simply decriminalisation is removing the criminal sanctions that apply to a person for the personal use of an illegal drug. It is important to reiterate the drug, in this case, cannabis will still be illegal, it will still be unregulated and still only available on the black market.
The rationale behind this approach is to treat drugs as a health and social issue and not a criminal justice or moral issue. Decriminalisation can reduce the burden on our criminal justice system by eliminating Court time, Garda time, legal practitioners, and the costs of imprisonment, while also removing the harmful consequences the person may face such as stigma, loss of employment, loss of opportunity and negative social outcomes. Decriminalisation is not a silver bullet solution; it is often referred to as a stepping stone on the road to reform.
Under EU and International Law, it is permissible to decriminalise personal possession of cannabis without infringing on our obligations. The only barrier the Bill will face is the Government blocking it going forward or voting against it. Submission of this Bill will also test the government’s commitment to a health-led approach our National Drug Policy advocates for.
Speaking about the Bill Mr Kenny said “This is a moderate bill, and it hopes to start a discussion in relation to cannabis and hopefully the government legislates it. In our party, we’d like to go much further than decriminalisation, our party supports regulation. We think this is a stepping stone towards full regulation of cannabis. I think it’s inevitable it will happen. Other countries are looking at different models rather than criminalising someone or bringing them to the justice system. There’s an alternative that is decriminalisation with legalisation.”