Irish government present the opportunity of a life without addiction, as government strongly reject proposals for cannabis regulation

Last night, members of the Irish Dail voted almost unanimously against a propoal to introduce a regulated cannabis market.

7th November 2013

The Irish Dail last night strongly rejected a private member’s bill put forward by TD Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan to legalise and regulate cannabis, with just eight votes in favour of the bill and 111 votes against it. The vote shows a clear lack of support in Ireland for regulating the cultivation, sale and distribution of cannabis through both commercial outlets and social clubs. As an organisation, EURAD, a network of NGO’s working in prevention and recovery, welcomes the government reaction, given its’ potential consequences for drug use in Ireland.

Speaking about his motion ahead of the vote last night, Flanagan cited a number of health reports that say the drug is not as harmful as is widely claimed and pointed to the potential tax revenue that legalisation would result bring in.

However, the Irish government were not at all convinced by Flanagan’s arguments, with Health Minister James Reilly saying the government will not be changing its policy and that he had “serious concerns about the health impacts” of cannabis use.

In recent weeks, the campaign in Ireland to regulate cannabis seriously downplayed the consequences of cannabis use in order to convince politicians and the public to support it. Last week, for example, in a live television debate, TD Flanagan claimed that if the bill was passed “cannabis would be guaranteed not to damage health”.

Only around 1% of the population in Europe use cannabis on a daily basis and this is a decline from several years ago . However, cannabis use is significantly higher in the 15-24 year old age bracket. Cannabis use is associated with a range of physical and psychological harm, drug addiction, road traffic accidents, learning outcomes, reduced employment opportunities and relationship problems . Research published last year also shows that those who start using cannabis before the age of 18 are particularly susceptible to the damaging effects of cannabis, particularly neuropsychological decline .

Fay Watson, Secretary General of EURAD added: “This bill was about opening a commercial market for cannabis, in a way which doesn’t exist anywhere else in Europe. If this bill were to have been implemented, there is no doubt that the access, availability and promotion of cannabis would have increased within a culture where substance use is already a big enough problem”.

She added: “Cannabis is still the primary drug for 80% of young people under the age of 20 who enter drug treatment, so there is still a long way to go. In Ireland, there still needs to be much more investment in evidence-based prevention programmes which target not just the general population but also those who are most likely to develop drug problems, such as young offenders and people with conditions such as ADHD. We also need to ensure that young people can access a full array of effective drug treatment programmes, where they are encouraged and facilitated to fulfil their full potential”.

Ends

Notes to Editors

• The full bill can be found here: http://s3.documentcloud.org/documents/809419/cannabis-regulation-bill-2013-with-explanatory.pdf

• The TV debate from RTE which is mentioned in the press release can be found here: http://www.rte.ie/news/player/2013/1029/20463135-dail-eireann-to-debate-the-legalisation-of-marijuana/#page=6

• EURAD is a European non -profit drug policy Foundation that advocates a prevention and recovery oriented drug policy at national and international level. We are members of the EU Civil Society Forum on Drugs and the UN Vienna NGO Committee on Drugs.

• EURAD was launched at a press conference in the European Parliament in Strasbourg on 25th October in 1988. A constitutional meeting was convened on the 7th-9th April 1989 in Berlin, funded by the European Commission, formally establishing EURAD.

• EURAD is registered as a foundation ("stichting") under Dutch law (reg. number: 41155759)