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Joe Carey via Facebook

Fine Gael TD open to Portuguese model of cannabis decriminalisation

Though the TD’s views are not exactly in line with the party’s position, he will be voting with the government tomorrow after a debate on cannabis legalisation.

FINE GAEL TD Joe Carey has said that while he in not convinced of the merits of full legalisation of cannabis, he is open to the model of decriminalisation in Portugal which removed criminal penalties in favour of therapy and education for small time offenders.

His comments come ahead of a debate in the Dáil this evening on independent TD Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan’s Cannabis Regulation motion.

On his Facebook page this week, the Fine Gael TD for Clare asked his constituents for their opinions on legalising the drug:


(View larger version)

The majority of the comments were in favour of legalisation for different reasons including the tax revenue it would bring in, the tourism it could attract and an end to harsh sentences for those in possession of the drug for personal use.

In response, Carey told his Facebook followers that he was not convinced by the arguments for broad legalisation.

Decriminalisation in Portugal

However he said he was “open to the model of decriminalisation in Portugal” and was struck by many of the people who contacted him having been prosecuted for small amounts and are now “suffering the consequences because of that”.

In Portugal, the law was changed in 2001, maintaining the status of illegality for use or possession for personal use without authorisation but changing the offence from a criminal one to an administrative one.

This means that those found with no more than ten days’ supply of a drug do not risk a prison sentence and instead are targeted with therapy or community service. The country also has a nationwide needle exchange program run through pharmacies.

Medical purposes

Speaking to, Carey said he also believes there is a “strong case” in relation to loosening the laws in relation to people who have medical issues such as Motor Neuron Disease and Multiple Sclerosis in particular.

I would be hopeful that the government would listen to people who suffer part from MS and MND and that some relaxation in the laws could be made to reflect in their favour because basically their pain is relieved by the use of cannabis and cannabis products.

He said the argument for changing the law for tourism purposes was “reckless because it would bring other vices into play”.

“You can’t disregard the view that cannabis is associated with mental health issues, ” the TD said. “I would be very much guided what what people have said in relation to that. People like Tony Geoghegan in the Merchant’s Quay project would have expressed those views.”

While Carey’s views on decriminalisation are not exactly in line with the party’s position on the topic, he will be supporting the government when they vote on the bill tomorrow.

- With additional reporting by Hugh O’Connell.

Related: Cannabis legalisation: Where do the parties stand?>

More: 6 things we learned from Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan’s Cannabis Regulation Bill>

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