Opinion Letters

Saturday 19 October 2019

Letters to the Editor: 'The only way to cure the scourge of cannabis in Ireland is for full legalisation and taxation'

Danger: Modern ‘skunk’ strains of cannabis were developed because criminals wanted to maximise profits
Danger: Modern ‘skunk’ strains of cannabis were developed because criminals wanted to maximise profits
Letters to the Editor

Letters to the Editor

Ireland is facing an important decision: what to do about cannabis? Research supports the views of the group of doctors who warned us last week about the dangers of the drug, especially for young people and the psychologically vulnerable.

I disagree, however, that these dangers are best managed by criminalising users, and I think that the evidence supports the decision to decriminalise cannabis, as Portugal, Canada and several US states have already done.

Cannabis and other drugs have been actively criminalised in Ireland for 50 years, and with 780 deaths in 2016, and gangsters making millions and murdering each other, it is impossible not to conclude that Ireland's war on drugs has made the problem far worse.

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Cannabis, like all drugs including alcohol, is destructive unless used carefully and with moderation. However, many people use it for recreation without harmful effects on their health and on their lives. The best way to help the minority who become addicted or who suffer psychological damage is not to imprison them, but to give them medical help.

One example of how cannabis criminalisation makes the problem worse: Dr Ray Walley pointed out that the variety of cannabis resin and herb now most widespread is far more potent than the varieties available in the past. Why is this? When I was a half-hearted hippie in the 1960s, cannabis came in a wide variety of forms. It was produced by small third-world farmers in Morocco, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Lebanon, and it was far lower in THC content than the stuff available now.

This is because the huge criminal organisations which criminalisation brought into being have taken over the trade and have selectively bred the seeds to produce plants of higher and higher potency, in order to maximise profits.

The super-strong cannabis causing such damage today is a result of criminalising the drug, and the 'skunk' that destroys so many young lives now will disappear only if cannabis is legalised, licensed and controlled.

I believe that we should do this, and ignore the sincere but misleading advice of the doctors to double down on our present failed policies. Let's instead ring-fence the taxation generated by legalisation to fund state-of-the-art sports facilities for young people, and to make treatment facilities widely and instantly available to those suffering damage from all drugs, including alcohol.

More than five times as many people die in Ireland annually from drugs than are killed on our roads. So many deaths and ruined lives are caused not only by the drugs themselves, but by the way criminalisation dictates the circumstances in which they are used.

Gerard Griffin

Ballinamore, Co Leitrim

We have an opportunity to save our historic areas

We wish to congratulate Frank Coughlan on his article about Shankill and the proposed bus corridor ('Throwing an entire village under the bus', Comment, May 28). May we offer these considerations?

The historic areas of Dublin's more than 1,000-year-old heritage are relatively small. The small Pembroke district has a worldwide reputation as part of a townscape of quality architectural and urban layout and should not be compromised. Pembroke Road is a main artery in the district and is divided on both sides into more than 200-year-old plots demarcated by a wonderful variety of Dublin-made iron railings from that era. These railings are as much a part of Dublin's heritage as are the beautiful brick houses that they separate and protect.

Would any other European capital of Dublin's quality entertain the possibility of the official destruction of its historic townscape? Visitors come to Dublin to experience the Georgian elegance, which this small district presents.

A rethink must start with an acknowledgement of what we have, how precious and unique it is, and how imperative it is that we pass it on to the future and hopefully more enlightened generations of Dubliners.

A rethink should recognise that travel times between a suburban university campus and the canal are not an issue. All urban interests should be included in coming to conclusions about the stewarding of traffic though this area, not just traffic engineers. Remember they gave us Clanbrassil Street which destroyed a whole area of the old town leading to the medieval cathedrals.

The examples and experiences of historic European cities should be foremost in the deliberation of any rethink.

Patrick F Wallace

Urban Archaeologist and former Director of the National Museum of Ireland

Siobhán Cuffe


Corbyn has no hope of getting a better deal

Jeremy Corbyn was in town to drum up support for his Brexit strategy and hopes to renegotiate the Withdrawal Agreement, should he ever achieve power.

Helpfully, the Government here has shielded him from media scrutiny, which may be just as well as he has no answers for the questions he is likely to face.

For instance, why should Ireland and the EU give him a better deal than we gave Theresa May after two long years of negotiations? Precisely what favours do we owe him after the damage Brexit has already done to our economy and the peace process in the North?

If he has some new ideas, then perhaps all well and good. They should be considered. But so far his public utterances have done nothing to dispel the notion that he is still hell-bent on pursuing Brexit even after it has become clear an increasing majority of British people have changed their minds.

Brexit-supporting parties Ukip (-24), Conservatives (-15), Labour (-10) and Ulster Unionists (-1) have just lost 50 European Parliament seats while the Brexit party gained just 29. That net loss of 21 seats has gone directly to explicitly Remain parties - Lib Dems (+15), Greens (+4), SNP (+1) and the Alliance Party (+1).

If Corbyn won't represent his own people, then why should we listen to him?

Frank Schnittger

Blessington, Co Wicklow

Heartfelt tribute to Gda McCallion, a man of duty

I received the sad and tragic news that Garda John McCallion, of Swinford, Co Mayo, died while out training for a charity cycle near his home.

I got to know John after the death of his younger brother Robbie, also a garda, in 2009. I was Robbie's sergeant in Letterkenny on the fateful night when he got knocked down responding to a call with two other colleagues to the theft of a car in Tara Court, in March 2009.

John was the spokesperson for his family and was the one whom I made contact with and spoke with during that upsetting time and came to know and appreciate over the past decade.

His calm exterior and humility belied the sadness and turmoil at losing his kid brother, but he remained a stalwart in the face of all of the publicity from Robbie's death until the trial and conviction of the accused person.

I had the privilege and honour of getting to know all of the McCallion family, from Bob and Nancy, the parents, to Noreen, Deirdre and John, and all their children, during this past decade.

John, like Robbie, had a deep sense of duty, but with that deep sense of duty came responsibility. With it came a great sense of humility, honesty and dedication to all those who made contact or came in contact with them.

They epitomised all that was good.

The McCallion family typified the dedication to duty as John and Robbie's dad, Bob, and uncles were members of An Garda Síochána also.

They exuded all that was good and right. They did not shirk from their duties or responsibilities as front-line members of the force or as family men.

I met John and all the McCallion family when a Garda select team from Donegal went to Swinford to play in the Robbie McCallion Memorial Park in March of this year commemorating the 10th year since Robbie's death.

I also met the family in the Memorial Gardens of Dublin Castle remembering all our fallen colleagues of An Garda Síochána only on May 18 last.

Knowing the family as I've got to know them, and that is only minuscule compared to those in this close-knit group, they exuded all that was good and right.

John was training for the Garda Cycle Run from Malin to Mizen Head, and it was this sense of dedication and love for others that makes him stand out as the incredible person that I will remember him as.

To his wife Colette, daughters Sarah and Grace and son Robert, and all the McCallion family, friends and work colleagues, I mourn with you at this great loss but always remember that your husband, father, uncle, son and friend and colleague will never be forgotten, just like his brother Robbie.

They will always be very much a part of our lives, and those of us who knew John and Robbie will know that we had the privilege and honour of meeting that which was good and honest and caring in society, and one that we all strive to be.

Christy Galligan (retd. Gda. Sgt)

Letterkenny, Co Donegal

Irish Independent

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