Decriminalisation of cannabis: increase in countries opting for drug legislation

With the increase of use what is Ireland’s stand point on the drug?

By Leah Kilby

In recent years, Ireland has seen a significant increase in cannabis use, with studies showing that over the past decade usage of cannabis has been slowly increasing. A study done by the Health Research Board estimated that over 1.5% of the population over +15 are dependent on the drug. The question remains on what will Ireland’s next approach be?

Discussions of legalisation/ decriminalisation have been appearing in recent years as more research is made on the subject. A survey done by the Journal.ie found that over 40% surveyed were in favour of legalisation for recreational use and 90% in favour of medicinal use. The Department of Health stated in July 2021 that there would be improvements to the medical cannabis access program, in hopes the program continues to grow to benefit those who need it. Medicinal use of cannabis was legalised in Ireland in 2016.

Currently in Germany, the future government aims to legalise recreational use of cannabis. This would be a significant step to take as one of the EUs most influential countries. The only places where the drug is currently decriminalized is the Netherlands, Copenhagen (Denmark), Barcelona (Spain) and Prague (Czech Republic). However, if Germany were to legalise it, there are possibilities that more countries would consider doing the same. 

A study done by Emerald Insight, where they interviewed policymakers, indicated that many of the policymakers were supportive of decriminalization of cannabis, although there have been very few talk among government officials to confirm this.

While the future of Ireland’s stance on cannabis is still up in the air, there have been many studies done to suggest that decriminalization could have a negative impact on the country. An article by the Irish Times suggested that cannabis use ‘could be one of the gravest threats to young people’s mental health’.

“Mental health issues associated with cannabis use include psychosis, depression, anxiety disorders and suicidal behaviour. These have been exacerbated by rising levels of THC, the psychoactive part of the drug, in cannabis in recent years.” (Source: Paul Cullen, Irish Times)

In the UK, there have been plans put in action to try to stop the use of drugs. New sanctions could be put in place where any one caught using middle-class drugs could lose their passport and driver’s licence, essentially making it so they would have nowhere to go. While this approach may not include the use of cannabis there is a possibility that Ireland could implement similar sanctions considering the increase of drug use in the country.

While many countries have found success in legalisation/decriminalization of cannabis through taxation and maintaining distribution, there are still many negative impacts recreational drug use can have. Currently, Ireland has no plans to change legislation on the drug, but with public opinion becoming softer and increase of usage despite legality, it’s not impossible that we could see more discussion on the topic in the coming years.

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