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Irish Lawmaker Files Cannabis Legalization Bill

Last week, an Irish lawmaker introduced legislation to allow small amounts of marijuana for personal use. The legislation was introduced on Thursday by Gino Kenny, a lawmaker known as a Teachta Dála (TD) and a member of Ireland’s People Before Profit political party. The bill, if passed would allow personal possession up to 7 grams and 2.5 grams cannabis resin.

Kenny’s bill would amend Ireland’s Misuse of Drugs Act, which has been in force since the 1970s, and apply to adults aged 18 and older. Kenny indicated that he expected further discussion on the legislation to take place next year.

“The Bill is quite moderate. It amends existing legislation that dates back 42 years,” Kenny said during a recent debate in the Dáil Éireann, the lower house of the Irish Parliament. “Forty-two years is a very long time. My opinion is that the current law is obsolete and outdated. We need a different narrative around drug reform.”

“I hope the Government can support this legislation,” he continued. “It is timely. Many parts of the world look at models that don’t criminalize anyone and use harm-reduction approaches. I look forward to the debate.”

Lawmaker Says Criminalization Doesn’t Work

In an op-ed explaining the legislation published on November 24, Kenny said that “the present laws on criminalization do not work” and noted that many countries in Europe and beyond have reformed their cannabis policy or are in the process of doing so. 

Although the text of the bill states that possession of up to seven grams of cannabis use by adults aged 18 and older “shall be lawful,” Kenny referred to the legislation as a decriminalization measure. The lawmaker said the legislation would amend Ireland’s unsuccessful policy of total cannabis prohibition.

“[E]Even though cannabis is still illegal in Ireland we see an increase in the usage of this drug. Ireland has one of the highest usage rates of cannabis in the EU,” Kenny wrote. “Almost 30% of adults between the age of 15-64 in Ireland have said that they have used cannabis at least one in their lifetime, whilst 17% of the adult population has used cannabis in the last 12 months – over double the European average of 7%.”

According to the lawmaker, while the proposed proposal would eliminate the penalties for possession of low-level marijuana, it would still be illegal. The lawmaker noted that cultivation and sale of marijuana will remain illegal. This means the most common source of cannabis is still the illicit market.

Although Kenny’s bill will likely jumpstart the conversation surrounding cannabis reform in Ireland, whether or not it will succeed is another matter. An interview with the Irish Independent, the head of the Irish government, Taoiseach Micheál Martin, warned against the prospect of the proposed legislation making cannabis more desirable.

“I think we have to be careful that we don’t glamorize cannabis either because there are real concerns within the health community and the medical community about what cannabis can do to young people,” he said, adding that he would support a more healthcare-based approach to addiction and warned about the potential harms posed by cannabis.

“I would prefer a system that decriminalizes in the sense that it were there to help people with challenges with harmful substances such as cannabis,” said Martin. “Cannabis can do real harm too, to young people, and many people in the medical world have said that to me. That’s just a concern I have. I’ve been a strong advocate for the facilitation of medical cannabis for people.”

The legalization of medical cannabis in Ireland is currently under consideration. However, every patient will need to obtain an authorization from the national ministry. Kenny stated that his plan would eliminate prohibition on cannabis use for everyone, which is supported by his party.

“People Before Profit are totally opposed to the criminalization of cannabis users,” he wrote in his op-ed. “We believe that prohibition should come to an end, and that proper research should be undertaken by agencies that are independent of corporate influence into the benefits of regulation.”