Legalising cannabis and opening Amsterdam-style coffee shops all over the country could be worth up to €300m for the Exchequer and would take millions away from criminal gangs such as those which murdered crime journalist Veronica Guerin, Independent TD Luke “Ming” Flanagan claimed yesterday.
The Roscommon-South Leitrim TD launched his Cannabis Regulation Bill 2013 which would legalise the use of cannabis and allow people to cultivate up to six plants in their home or grow the drug for commercial purposes.
Mr Flanagan, who reiterated he only used the drug outside of this country, claimed revenue to the Exchequer could reverse the harmful budget cuts to the elderly such as the Bereavement Grant and the cutting of young people’s dole payments.
“To put money back to the most vulnerable in society, helping the less well-off, developing treatments for far more harmful drugs such as heroin and cocaine, to me would be better than putting it back in the hands of criminals.”
The bill also suggests setting up “cannabis social clubs” where up to 300 plants could be grown under licence on a not-for-profit basis. It also proposes:
- District Court licences to be granted for the cultivation, sale and transportation of the drug;
- Amsterdam-style coffee shops where, for example, cannabis cookies or cakes could be sold. It also proposes allowing smoking of the drug in such establishments;
- Making it an offence for anyone under 18 to have the drug — and an offence to drive under the influence of cannabis, as well as an offence to possess large quantities of the drug.
Joined by two GPs, Dr Garrett McGovern and Dr Cathal Ó Súiliobháin; and an ex-Chief Constable of Cambridge Police Tom Lloyd; Mr Flanagan estimated up to 150,000 Irish people used the drug at least once a month and pointed to a recent Gallup Poll in the United States which said 58% of Americans wanted to see the drug legalised.
Dr McGovern, who operates his own substance abuse clinic, claimed there was no evidence that people who used cannabis become psychotic.
“I think the number of cannabis smokers becoming psychotic is very small relative to the number of people who use this drug”, he said, adding 2,000 beds a night in Irish hospitals are occupied by patients with alcohol-related illnesses, and not many beds were occupied by people due to cannabis use.
Mr Flanagan pointed to Colorado and Washington State which recently legalised the drug in America and said Ireland should now lead the way in Europe. Asked if this would lead to drug tourism he replied: “We’d be replacing those who travel here to get pissed on Arthur’s Day to instead use something that is described by the World Health Organisation as less harmful than alcohol. Would that be a bad thing?”
Mr Lloyd claimed the so-called war on drugs had been a failure as it led to more drugs available at lower prices all over the world. In the case of cannabis, the Government should introduce control and regulation.