Simon Harris needs to replace the Misuse of Drugs Acts 1977-2016 in its entirety and provide for the regulation of cannabis by 2020.

As a lawyer with 18 years professional practice experience, I have always viewed the campaign for regulation of cannabis as one which is fundamentally about law reform and civil liberties. Since time immemorial, lawyers have been in the vanguard of lobbying and campaigning for the reform of unjust laws. The Misuse of Drugs Acts is one such law that needs to be revisited in its entirety.

During the course of both my professional and academic career I have had to deal with the Misuse of Drugs Acts on many occasions, whether it was in the court room, the classroom, or indeed more recently attempting to amend the acts by virtue of the Controlled Drugs and Harm Reduction Bill 2017. In short I understand how it works, and at first hand I can tell you it is fundamentally flawed.

The Irish Misuse of Drugs Act 1977, was a copy of the equivalent UK Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 introduced by Reginald Maudling when he was Home Secretary. Unlike the UK provision which contained the classification system, the Irish provision included schedules (a table of controlled drugs which until recently could be added to by statutory instrument)

So in essence, the Irish Government effectively copied a questionable piece of legislation into Irish Law, localised it (poorly) and occasionally revisited it when required. What we now have is a cumbersome, outdated and poorly crafted piece of legislation which is not fit for purpose. Since its introduction, the Misuse of Drugs Act has completely failed in its original objective (if there was one) to reduce the supply of illicit drugs. Moreover, the legislation has contributed towards the growth of organised crime and the penalisation of people suffering from drug addiction. The arguments in favour of decriminalisation are strong, and the government in the National Drug Strategy has made it clear that they are open to the idea of moving towards a decriminalisation model. What they seem incapable of considering, or at least giving proper consideration to is a regulated system which accepts that not only does prohibition not work but they very law which governs prohibition has to be replaced in its entirety.

Given the developments that are taking place in North America regarding the Regulation of Cannabis both for medical and recreational use, the Irish Government are on notice that ultimately they are going to have to pursue a policy of Regulation. As we have said on this site on numerous occasions, the Government can only delay the inevitable. Therefore, it is not a question of ‘if’ the Irish Government regulates cannabis, only a question of ‘when?’ The problem in Ireland is that the Department of Health suffers from the legislative equivalent of ‘Jet Lag’ – their bodies are in a new time zone but their minds are stuck in the 1980’s. In truth the department is quite happy to do nothing for the time being.

But doing nothing or very little will not suffice.

So, it comes down to a simple issue, the Irish Government has to face reality and come up with a detailed plan to replace not only the Misuse of Drugs Acts 1977-2016 but also a plan to regulate cannabis both for medicinal and individual use. The arguments in favour are well  known (and don’t have to be repeated here)  leaving the medical issue aside, the case for Regulation makes strong economic sense. We have made it clear to the two main political parties in Ireland, Fine Gael and Fianna Fail that there is an illicit market which will not go away; a market which is worth roughly €1 Billion per annum. The existence of an illicit market provides no protection to children nor does it help vulnerable people such as Vera Twomey who are placed in an invidious situation, when it is clear that cannabis has strong medicinal value which helps patients with serious illness. We have pointed out that a regulated market will be worth €2.5 Billion to the Irish economy by 2025, generate 25,000 new jobs and contribute as much as €500 million in additional revenue to the exchequer per annum. Those figure cannot be ignored. But, notwithstanding the strength of our argument, reactionary elements within the Department of Health and special interests who are consciously forestalling progress in the mistaken belief that Irish Medical Consultants know best, when it is fairly obvious they don’t. The Government  as a matter of course, must dislodge itself from the orbit of those special interests who are not only holding back progress (for their own self-interest) but who also damaging the prospect that Ireland could become the Green Valley of the Regulated Cannabis industry in Europe, an industry set to be worth €230 Billion by 2025.

Fweed’s approach to regulation is clear and unambiguous. We believe in practical law reform that will help people at every level in society, but just as importantly generate huge economic returns for the state. Returns, which can be reinvested in our health and education systems in the same manner that regulation has resulted in huge windfalls for the states of Colorado, Alaska, and Washington. We have taken the view, from the outset, that the goal of regulation is realisable by 2020, and to that end we have sought to engage with the Department (and the government by extension) in a constructive manner. We will continue to do so, firm in the belief that our arguments are grounded not only in common sense, but also backed up by a growing body evidence that makes the case for regulation irrefutable.

We are under no illusions as to the challenges which the Minister for Health faces, in what is effectively the most challenging of political portfolios. We don’t believe that progress can be made by ‘cat-calling’ or directing negative invective against the Minister for Health, if anything that approach is counter-production and whereas it might suit those in the political arena from the left who wish to score points in challenging the Minister, our mission is persuasion. We have sought to open a constructive dialogue with the Minister and his officials in the Department of Health. We have a detailed plan to achieve regulation by 2020 that is realisable and workable. We accept that ‘political considerations’ play their part, but we also know as does the Minister, that ultimately regulation will occur at some future date. As aforementioned, it is not a question of ‘if’ regulation occurs but ‘when?’ We believe the time has come for the Irish Government to chart a clear and unambiguous course towards regulation. We are happy to assist in that endeavour by bringing to the table international expertise in the field of drug policy regulation, people who have and who are in the process of transitioning states and countries away from the failed policies of prohibition towards sensible regulation. Working in tandem with the Government we can make it happen.

Fweed is a corporate advisory and research firm that specialises in promoting the interests of the hemp industry for agricultural, medicinal, scientific and commercial use. We provide sound regulatory and commercial advice to clients in the hemp industry and serve as their interface with public representatives, regulatory bodies and government departments. We help our clients navigate the regulatory process, and influence domestic and international policy makers on matters relating to the hemp industry. We ensure that our clients are compliant with national laws and international conventions which place limits on the production, manufacture, distribution and sale of hemp and cannabis based products.

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