THE INDEPENDENT TD Luke Ming Flanagan intends to bring forward legislation that would legalise cannabis in Ireland later this year and says that he himself still smokes the drug himself – but not in this country.
Flanagan has said that his office has been working on a new bill that could include provisions that make it legal for people to grow cannabis plants in their own home as well as purchase the drug legally.
Of his own habits, he told TheJournal.ie this week: “When I go to Holland and if I go to country that deems it acceptable I smoke it, but not in the Republic at the moment.”
Although the legislation – due for debate in the Dáil in late October – is almost certain to be defeated by the government majority Flanagan said the main purpose of the introducing the bill is to generate debate and expose those TDs who speak out against it.
“Let’s say you do have a situation where people vote it down, well at least we will have had three hours debate over a two day period in Dáil Éireann and people will get to hear serious arguments [in favour] and I will get to hear the counter arguments from anyone else.
“And I will get to see numerous TDs stand up who no doubt in their youth, and maybe even still, use cannabis who will speak out against it.”
The TD dismissed arguments that legalisation would mean the introduction of another drug in this country, saying that arguments that someone who drinks alcohol will then smoke cannabis are not justified. “If they smoke cannabis they won’t be drinking five or six pints,” he said.
“Suggesting an aggregate effect is unrealistic. If I was working in the alcohol industry I would worry about cannabis being legalised. It would give people another choice.”
Flanagan was speaking ahead of his appearance at the seventh annual Legalise Cannabis Ireland protest which will get at under way at the Garden of Remembrance in Parnell Square in Dublin at 2pm today.
Protesters will be making their way over to Dáil Éireann. Flanagan and a number of others will speak at the march with organisers putting forward the argument that cannabis sales could yield in excess of €1 billion in tax revenue if it were legalised.
The Roscommon-South Leitrim TD’s own estimates put the figure at €480 million which would take into account savings in the criminal justice system and taxation.
“Really it’s very up in the air that figure,” he said. “The only way you will ultimately establish how much [it will raise ] is if you legalise it.
“Within six months to 18 months we will have definitive results out of what has happened in Colorado and Washington where they have legalised cannabis. By then we’ll have very good data about how successful or otherwise it has been.”
Earlier this year, the Irish Medical Board gave the green light for a cannabis-based spray, Sativex, to be used by MS sufferers in Ireland but the government has not yet brought forward legislation that would be needed for the spray to be sold in Ireland.
Presently, the Misuse of Drugs Act prohibits the production and possession of cannabis-based medicines in the same way as cannabis itself.