Words: Ellen Kenny
The Bill to decriminalise cannabis possession was introduced ahead of plans for a Citizens’ Committee on drug use in 2023.
People Before Profit (PBP) TD Gino Kenny has officially published his Misuse of Drugs (Cannabis Regulation) Bill 2022 and introduced it to the Dáil. The bill does not legalise cannabis but removes the criminal penalties for those using the drug.
Under the proposed legislation, it would become legal for people 18 and over to be in possession of up to 7 grams of cannabis and 2.5 grams of cannabis resin when there’s “reasonable inference” that it’s for personal use. This is similar to legislation in Malta and Luxembourg.
The proposed legislation is similar to Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan’s 2013 Cannabis Regulation Bill, which was rejected by 111 to 8 votes.
Speaking in the Dáil on November 24, Kenny said that current legislation criminalising drug use is punishing people “because of all sorts of circumstances that happen in life”, and new legislation is needed in the 21st century: “history and the times are on our backs. We’ve had 40 years of bad laws, it’s time to change these laws and make them good for everybody.”
Tweeting after the bill’s introduction in the Dáil, Kenny said, “I hope this bill can start a conversation in this country which can lead to the end of prohibition and usher in a new approach. One which will no longer see people unnecessarily criminalised and marginalised.”
The Labour Party is also due to put forward a motion on decriminalising drugs in the Dáil next Wednesday. Labour TD Aodhán Ó’Ríordáin said that 70 per cent of drug cases in the courts system are for possession for personal use. According to Ó’Ríordáin, this was a complete waste of garda, the courts’ time and of the criminal justice system time.
Minister of State at the Department of Health Frank Feighan, who has responsibility for the National Drugs Strategy, also confirmed that a Citizens’ Assembly on drug use is being planned for 2023. A Citizens’ Assembly on decriminalising drug use was promised under the Programme for Government.
He told RTÉ News the current Government policy is to follow the National Drugs Strategy a “health-led rather than a criminal justice approach to drug use”.
However, he confirmed there are currently no plans to legalise or decriminalise drugs.
Taoiseach Micheál Martin has stated that he would be in favour of a more healthcare-based approach to addiction and warned about the harms of cannabis including addiction.
“I think we have to be careful that we don’t glamorise cannabis either because there are real concerns within the health community and the medical community about what cannabis can do to young people.”
“That’s just a concern I have. I’ve been a strong advocate for facilitation for medical cannabis for people,” Martin said last week.
Elsewhere on District: The Case for Decriminalising Drugs in Ireland