Photo: The Joint Blog
The Republic of Ireland, like many countries, has been traditionally harsh on drug use, including cannabis. The Misuse of Drugs Order states that cannabis is considered a Schedule I narcotic, which claims it has no medical or scientific value. This is a mirror image of the United States’ federal stance on cannabis.
Recently, the Republic of Ireland has started to shift views on cannabis, along with many other countries around the world. In 2014, the Department of Health allowed medical patients suffering from Multiple Sclerosis (MS) to use cannabis legally. This was a huge step toward realizing the benefits of cannabis medically. Just like in the United States, Ireland had a rough start with finding medical benefits of cannabis because of the harsh classification.
Earlier this month, Ireland has moved past the United States’ Federal Government by announcing a radical shift in their approach on drug abuse and policy. The Minister of Ireland’s National Drugs Strategy, Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, spoke at an international workshop on drug policy where he talked about the push for decriminalization of cannabis and other narcotics for personal use, using Portugal as an example.
He believes that decriminalization of drugs would help combat the crimes that are drug-related in the country. He also believes that Ireland is taking the wrong approach toward drug users. “I am firmly of the view that there needs to be a cultural shift in how we regard substance misuse if we are to break this cycle and make a serious attempt to tackle drug and alcohol addiction,” he told the London School of Economics during a recent speech.
Ó Ríordáin told The Irish Times, “I think if we’re going to introduce decriminalisation in Ireland it will take a number of years to get the systems in place to deliver it effectively. Because it is a major policy shift, it does require an awful lot of debate, research and understanding that the dynamics in Ireland are very different to the dynamics in Portugal. But as a model, I think it’s a progressive way forward. I think it’s much more humane and I think it makes absolute sense if you have 70 per cent of your drug convictions for possession for personal use. Those resources could be much better used tackling the pushers not the takers.”
Portugal decriminalized drugs over a decade ago and since that time HIV infections from injecting drug users, drug induced deaths, and rates of continuation of drug use have all gone down. While this policy is not perfect, it has lessened the burden of people who are addicted to drugs and turned them into patients, not criminals.
This type of policy shift is majorly important for people who suffer from addiction to hard drugs that are dangerous and even deadly, and it is also great for cannabis reform.
Countries such as the Republic of Ireland are just starting to see cannabis as having possible healing effects and have not yet realized the huge benefits cannabis can have for patients who suffer from seizures and other serious medical conditions. And while Ireland’s view on cannabis is still lumped together with the likes of heroin and cocaine, decriminalization of cannabis will allow for patients to use cannabis without fear of going to prison. Although it may take years for drug decriminalization to take effect in Ireland, the shift in views on how drug users should be seen is a step toward accepting cannabis as not pure evil and medically worthless.