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Monday 15 October 2018

Explainer: The Green Party's plan to decriminalise cannabis in Ireland

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Sean Nolan

Over the weekend the Green Party announced a new policy position calling for the decriminalisation of cannabis in Ireland.

Here is what they are proposing;

Where did this come from?

On Saturday, at the Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP) national conference in the Cork Institute of Technology, Oliver Moran, the Green Party's representative in Cork North Central, announced the new position in which they suggest Ireland should decriminalise possessing and growing cannabis for personal use as well as the introduction of Dutch-style coffee shops.

What exactly are they proposing?

Speaking on Newstalk Breakfast this morning, Mr Moran said that they would like to see Ireland adopt a system similar to Canada or Washington state in the United States.

In Canada, legislation to legalise cannabis is set to begin on July 1 this year. The Canadian law would allow up to 30g of cannabis possession for personal use. Under the Green Party proposals, the limit in Ireland would be 5g.

What about growing your own cannabis at home?

When it comes to 'grow your own' the Green Party suggest people can grow up to two plants at home for personal use.

What about medicinal use?

The party's proposals say that those who used cannabis to relieve medical symptoms could grow their own or get access through a medical doctor. On the Green Party website, Mr Moran is quoted as saying that Ireland is overdue a change in this respect.

"The lifting of a veil over taboos and criminality that covered the reality that we already knew was there and that made criminals out of decent people and sufferers out of medical patients. That made men and women feel like they had to act in secret for doing something as normal as taking medicine or having a glass of wine in the evening."

They mentioned Dutch-style coffee shops too?

Yes, the Green Party plan calls for gardai to 'tolerate' the coffee shops where people over 18 could consume and buy cannabis. The Green Party also suggest issuing licences to growers in Ireland so they could supply these shops and "take the trade out of the hands of criminal gangs".

Where has this idea come from?

The Green Party had suggested Ireland follow the Portuguese model in 2016 but this new proposal would be even more liberal as it is still illegal to produce or sell cannabis in Portugal.

On their website the Green Party say that this policy comes from a bid to 'reduce harm' and to 'stop the criminalisation of ordinary people'.

What happens now?

Well the Green Party say that this new policy will be part of their manifesto for the next general election so the Irish electorate will get a chance to back the idea the next time we all go to the polls.

Would the idea have popular backing?

A 2015 poll showed 36pc of Irish people favoured legislation to legalise the drug and other surveys since have suggested that this figure has only grown.

And the Green Party are confident that now is the right time for change on cannabis in Ireland.

“It's no longer all that unusual or 'out there' to support the legalisation of cannabis," said Mr Moran. "But we still need vocal support for drug law reform to build political will.

“Referendums on same sex marriage and abortion would have been unthinkable only a few years ago. It took ordinary people who weren't afraid to tell their stories to normalise the everyday and break those taboos.”

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