A 21st Century Approach to Regulating Cannabis in Ireland

 
Back in November 2015, I attended a conference in Crystal City, Virginia run by the Drug Policy Alliance. At one of the seminars, I listened carefully as John Hudek from the Brooking’s Institute set out a 12 month timeline for the further legalization of cannabis in the United States. Of particular note, was his observations concerning California. He pointed out quite correctly that once California voted for legalization, then the whole of the western seaboard of the United States would have regulated cannabis for recreational use. For those of us in the United Kingdom and Ireland involved with progressing regulation, we could only look at these developments with envious eyes. We know that it’s no longer a question of ‘if’ cannabis will be regulated but ‘when?’. But when, remains the operative question. Whereas certain states and countries were moving forward, we were still at first base.

Once California voted for legalisation almost 12 months after the DPA conference, the tipping point as Hudek had predicted had been reached; this was notwithstanding the appointment of Jeff Sessions as U.S. Attorney General whose views on cannabis are antiquated to say the least. Although cannabis remains illegal under Federal Law, there is no going back to prohibition. To quote Ethan Nadelmann, the founder and former executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance ‘The toothpaste is out of the tube, and it’s not going back in.’.

In the last two years, the ground has shifted in favour of legal regulation of cannabis most notably at the state level in the United States. North of the border, Canada is leading the way and is to become the first G7 country to legally regulate cannabis for recreational use in 2018. Western European countries are lagging behind, though one suspects Germany is likely to become the 2nd G7 to go down that road having passed a law last January to legalise cannabis for medicinal use which came into force last March. Not resting on their laurels,German government officials are working behind the scenes to prepare for legal regulation of cannabis for recreational use in three years time. In other words the starting gun has been fired but some countries remain deaf to what’s happening? This leads me to Ireland.

In the last 18 months, Irish public opinion has began to move towards this new reality. This is due in no small part to the tenacious campaigning of Vera Twomey whose daughter Ava has Dravet’s syndrome.Twomey’s case has touched the heart strings of the most important constituency in Ireland, mothers between 25-40 who can and do swing general elections and referendums. Whereas in the past, Governments could have relied on the bulwark of conservative elderly voters to quash progressive measures, demographics have changed that dynamic. Ireland is growing up, and the Irish public are less inclined to be held back by conservative policy makers who are out of touch in the digital era.

Ireland is in a unique position to be in the vanguard of legal regulation in Europe, and could reap the enormous economic benefits which will come when the ‘Green Wave’ surges across the Atlantic as it inevitably will. Irrespective of what Jeff Sessions may think, prohibition of cannabis is on its last legs, and he is merely the boy with his finger in the dyke. But, he can only delay the inevitable. The same can be said for conservative policy makers in Ireland, who are not ignorant to what is happening in the United States and Canada. Although officially they might be saying that Regulation is not on the agenda, they are starting to listen.

There comes a tipping point when pragmatism takes over from the illogical dogma of the drug wars. That point is fast approaching. At Fweed, we have been clear from the outset that we believe in Regulation as the only sensible approach towards cannabis both for medicinal and recreational use. Our mission is to persuade the Irish Government to leave the failed policy of prohibition behind and embrace regulation. Below, we have set out clear and unambiguous policy goals for achieving a regulated market; goals which are both realistic, practical and achievable. We are under no illusions of the difficulties encountered by progressive policy makers in trying to move an historically conservative country forward, but change is in the air and regulation is inevitable.

Our Policy Goals


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    To persuade the Irish Government to pass legislation which regulates Cannabis for Medical, Scientific and Personal use by 2020.

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    To create a world class regulatory framework for the production, distribution and sale of cannabis and hemp based products.

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    To establish Ireland as the European centre for the Regulated Cannabis & Hemp Industries

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    To protect young people by keeping cannabis out of the hands of children.

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    To minimise the harms of use, and eliminate the illicit market for unregulated cannabis.

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    Keep profits out of the hands of criminals and organised criminal cartels

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    Reduce the burdens on police and the justice system associated with simple possession offences under the Misuse of Drugs Acts 1977-2016.

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    Protect public health and safety by strengthening, where appropriate, laws and enforcement measures that deter and punish more serious cannabis offences, particularly selling and distributing to children and youth, selling outside of the regulatory framework, and operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of cannabis.

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    Establish and enforce a system of strict production, distribution and sales, taking a public health approach, with regulation of quality and safety (e.g., child-proof packaging, warning labels) application of taxes, with programmatic support for addiction treatment, mental health support and education programs.)

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    Ensure the Irish public are well-informed through sustained and appropriate public health campaigns and ensure that risks associated with cannabis use are understood

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