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Taoiseach Leo Varadkar speaking to reporters earlier this week Sam Boal
drug policy

'No view' on cannabis legalisation, says Varadkar as Citizens' Assembly on drugs expected in 2023

He said that “the public are ahead of the politicians” on issues like drugs policy and abortion.

TAOISEACH LEO VARADKAR has said that he doesn’t have a view on the legalisation of cannabis, but will instead allow the public to have a say through the upcoming Citizens’ Assembly on drug policy.

It comes after the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice recommended that the regulation and legalisation of certain drugs, including cannabis, should be closely examined by the Government.

Speaking to reporters, Varadkar said that he had not yet formed a view on cannabis legalisation and regulation in Ireland and he didn’t want to prejudice the upcoming Citizens’ Assembly on drugs.

“I haven’t formed a view on it and obviously don’t want to, kind of, prejudice what the Citizens’ Assembly might come up with,” Varadkar said.

When asked if he had used drugs since becoming a national politician, Varadkar said: “No, I haven’t.”

He said that previous Citizens’ Assemblies have worked to deal with “difficult issues”, including the removal of the Eighth Amendment from the Constitution.

“We have, in the past, seen Citizens’ Assemblies being used very effectively to deal with difficult issues. Often we’ve seen that they’ve demonstrated that the public are ahead of the politicians, and we saw that, I think, in fairness with marriage equality and also with the Eighth Amendment.”

Varadkar added that with the completion of two other Citizens’ Assemblies – on biodiversity and reform of local government in Dublin – gave space for one on drug policy.

“The kind of citizens assembly in the pipeline is one on drugs policy and they’ll have a chance to consider it.”

It had previously been estimated that the Citizens’ Assembly would be up and running in 2023, but no dates have been announced so far.

Varadkar made the comments during a wide-ranging media briefing with journalists earlier this week.

The report itself, which was launched last week, was carried out on a cross-party basis and recommended that current moves towards a health-led approach to drug use be accelerated by the Government.

On the regulation of drugs, Justice Committee Chair and Fianna Fáil TD James Lawless said that legalisation needed to be viewed in an “Irish context” and that by creating a “managed market”, drugs that are currently available on the black market could be made safer.

“In the regulation would be a concept of actually having a commercial product and having the product available, which can be monitored, managed, licenced, weighed, tested for compliance, for safety, for content in a way that it clearly is not at the moment,” Lawless said.

There were also recommendations for further research into both the benefits and drawbacks of drug “social clubs”, which can be used to grow personal supplies of cannabis or other substances for members.

A bill is also currently before the Dáil, tabled by People Before Profit’s Gino Kenny, that would decriminalise the possession of up to 7g of cannabis for personal use.

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