On Wednesday the 16th of November, People Before Profit/Solidarity TD, Gino Kenny, hosted a discussion in the FitzGerald Chamber. In this discussion he outlined his proposition to decriminalise the possession of up to 7 grams of cannabis.

What would be an amendment of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1977, Kenny argues that the criminalisation of cannabis “is criminal itself” and enables the strengthening of criminal organisations involved in cultivating and distributing the drug nationwide.

What will begin at the end of November with the proposition of the bill before the Dáil, Kenny expressed his hope that it would become the first of a series of bills to regulate cannabis, the next of which will tackle the decriminalisation of sale and cultivation.

In the event of legalisation, Kenny advocates for the distribution of cannabis within “regulated spaces,” such as dispensaries reminiscent of coffeeshop establishments in the Netherlands. The majority of these spaces will be managed via “a not-for-profit system where the state controls the sale and supply.”

In April 2018, the Green Party expressed a similar sentiment stating that the current law has “made criminals out of decent people.” This comment was backed by leader Eamon Ryan who expressed his belief to TheJournal.ie that a coffeeshop culture would work throughout the country.

For Kenny, regulated spaces will allow for the safer handling of cannabis, such as enabling the buyer to choose the amount of the THC content included – the core psychoactive component of cannabis. Furthermore, whilst distribution via the black market includes the risk of cannabis products being laced with unknown substances, Kenny notes that this would no longer be of concern in regulated spaces.

The proposition coincides with what Kenny has described as a “renaissance” surrounding the stigma of cannabis. It his hope that the bill will challenge beliefs such as cannabis being “a gateway drug to the heart of drugs” and illuminate how the true gateway toward harder drugs is rather “poverty and alienation.”

However, Kenny did address issues surrounding the possibility of cannabis dependency, noting that there can be “problematic use” in which users can become reliant on the drug. In a climate of decriminalisation, Kenny argues that the financial gain from the regulation of cannabis can be used for “more progressive things,” such as aid for those suffering from substance dependency. 

When questioned about the status of individuals with past criminal offenses relating to cannabis, Kenny supported the recent measures taken by U.S. President Joe Biden in which prisoners charged with “simple possession” of the drug were pardoned. As part of the legalisation drive, Kenny aspires to propose a future bill tackling the expunging of criminal offenses of up to thirty years related to cannabis, including the removal any records of past offences.

As of now, the Republic of Ireland has legalised the possession of medical cannabis through the Medical Cannabis Access Programme. Despite Minister of Health, Stephen Donnelly, expressing his hope for the programme to “grow and expand further”, Kenny has described it as being “tortuously slow” and is not yet available for medical issues, such as neuropathic pain.

Jordan Feeley – Politics Writer