Sunday 4 December 2016

Joint committee and the prospect of white smoke on marijuana

John Daly

Published 07/11/2015 | 02:30

Country musician Willie Nelson has long been a high profile advocate of marijuana legalisation
Country musician Willie Nelson has long been a high profile advocate of marijuana legalisation

Whether you agree or disagree, the past week has seen Ireland closer to seeing white smoke on looking at legislation for the legalisation of marijuana.

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With marijuana now legal or decriminalised across much of the United States, where polls consistently show a majority of Americans support legalisation, will we really be that far behind? Country star and lifetime campaigner for the 'Bob Hope' brigade, Willie Nelson (below) has even launched his own company to sell the weed himself. Indeed one of his most popular songs is 'Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die'.

But more of that anon. Back in the old sod, the decriminalisation of drugs for personal use also moved up a gear - so to speak - this week when the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality "strongly recommended" that the possession of small amounts of illegal drugs be decriminalised. The news followed an earlier speech by Drugs Strategy Minister Aodhan Ó Ríordáin, referencing the Portuguese model, where the decriminalisation of drugs for personal use passed in 2001 has successfully resulted in more police resources concentrated on drug dealers and traffickers. The Labour minister was "in favour of removing the stigma compounded for those who end up with a criminal record due to possession of drugs for their own use". In a similar sentiment echoed in the US this week, Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders said: "Too many Americans have seen their lives destroyed because they have criminal records as a result of marijuana use." Sanders supports the legalisation of marijuana, saying the imposition of heavy sentences was "downright absurd".

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