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Friday 20 October 2017

Opinion: Legalise cannabis and weed out the real criminals

(Stock image)
(Stock image)
Joe Barry

Joe Barry

After decades of dithering, the Government, with seemingly great reluctance, has finally legalised the use of medicinal cannabis.

Almost at the same time, Minister Shane Ross announced he is planning to add further draconian penalties to drinking and driving. So one previously criminalised, but widely used, therapeutic drug is to be now legally permitted and another legal one is to be further criminalised.

Legalising cannabis for medicinal purposes is just one of a long list of measures that have been ignored for too long, despite the obvious need for the product.

Making it available for recreational use is apparently a long way down the list of Government priorities, yet it is available on virtually every street corner in every town and village in Ireland.

The hypocrisy associated with our laws on drug use is hard to fathom. Alcohol is a highly addictive drug, as is nicotine, but both are freely available and on sale in almost every pub, restaurant and supermarket in Ireland.

Cannabis, on the other hand, is viewed as almost Satanic and being caught in possession of it can produce heavy fines and sometimes imprisonment.

Throughout the world, police forces have failed miserably to halt the sale of illegal drugs and this has been the case for decades. In the meantime, the criminal bosses have become billionaires.

This is an exact replica of the era in the United States when alcohol was made illegal and the criminal gangs, such as those led by the infamous Al Capone, became hugely wealthy by supplying booze to a public happy to pay for it. Stories of how the forces of law and order were often paid off to look the other way were commonplace at that time.

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Could this be happening here at present? Such behaviour doesn't just stop at fixing speeding fines.

The only sensible solution is to make recreational drugs legal, perhaps on prescription, and available in a controlled manner.

Tax them in the way alcohol and cigarettes are taxed and use the huge sums this would earn to provide better education on the dangers of abuse and support good rehabilitation services for addicts.

The money raised could also go towards funding better policing to clamp down on crime and anti-social behaviour.

The criminal gangs would no longer have such a lucrative business to operate and the practice of recruiting young children as drug runners and making drugs available in school yards would disappear.

If drugs were legal, it would eliminate the sad reality of school children being repeatedly tempted to purchase them.

No one tries to get kids addicted to whiskey or vodka. There is no profit in it, but there is big bucks to be made from getting them hooked on drugs.

Our authorities seem to be in denial regarding the scale of the problem and the fact that, despite the huge sums spent on trying to stamp out drug dealing, nothing has been achieved.

My son, when he was a young teenager, told me that when walking in Dublin with friends, being offered drugs was a regular occurrence. This has not changed.

I also recall enjoying a pint in my local around that time and the man sitting next to me was in to his fifth pint while, at the same time, aggressively complaining about how drugs were ruining the country.

I listened in astonishment as here was someone happily enjoying (or should I say abusing) one of the most addictive drugs available while being blissfully unaware of the hypocrisy of what he was saying.

It seems we are now to have the consumption of as much as a glass of wine banned if we are intent on driving afterwards, but will it alter anything?

At least drug testing is to be introduced at Easter. Hopefully it will be effective, but somehow I doubt it.

There is clearly a double standard at work here, where it is acceptable to see 'the lads' a bit drunk after a football game or a night on the town, but we raise our hands in horror if it is suspected that anyone is seen taking cocaine.

I have just read a report from the Criminal Circuit Court of how a woman punched and kicked a Luas passenger in an attempt to steal another woman's mobile phone.

It appears the attacker carrying out the assault was an addict, while her drug dealer stood by, waiting for the phone as part payment for a debt. This is just one of a litany of crimes we read about daily.

Only our elected representatives can end it but will they? And pigs might fly.

Nothing romantic about stealing for a fix

Since the dawn of time,  mankind has taken substances that provide a temporary respite from the pressures of living, whether it was by eating magic mushrooms, licking the hallucinogenic skin secretions from frogs in the Andean jungle, (this can kill you if you pick the wrong frog as some emit a cardiac toxin), smoking dope or brewing up some alcoholic concoction or other.

Nothing has changed and these practices cannot be stopped. The only solution is to legalise drugs and control their sale, which would eliminate the criminals who are currently in charge. Making poteen and smuggling alcohol to avoid the excise man have been romanticised in the past, but there is nothing romantic about dying in a gutter from gunshot wounds or sleeping rough and living a half life while needing a fix several times a day and being prepared to rob for it.

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