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TD Gino Kenny says he expects the Bill to be before the House in July. Alamy Stock Photo

'It's made criminals out of decent people': People Before Profit to introduce Bill to legalise cannabis

Four years ago the Green Party favoured the establishment of Amsterdam-style cannabis coffee shops to Ireland.

A BILL TO end the criminalisation of cannabis will be introduced in the Dáil in July by People Before Profit.

Dublin Mid-West TD Gino Kenny has said thousands of people use cannabis every day but possession of even small amounts can cause people to be criminalised. 

“There is no more reason for cannabis to be illegal than alcohol,” he said.

When the Bill is introduced this summer, it will lead to a focus on the Green Party and whether they would support such a Bill. 

In 2018, the Green Party called for the decriminalisation of cannabis, saying that the current law has “made criminals out of decent people” and needs to change.

Kenny told The Journal that it will be interesting to see where the Green Party lands on the issue as it has one of the most comprehensive drugs policies of any of the political parties.

He said that criminal records of cannabis consumers should also be wiped clean so that “people can get on with their lives and careers”.

If it were legalised, researched, and properly regulated there would be far less likelihood of harm, he said, adding that other countries have begun to legalise cannabis and Ireland should follow suit.

Once legalised, cannabis should be sold in regulated settings which would limit the sale of the it for profit, said Kenny.

Dutch-style “coffee shops” 

The Green Party previously called for the introduction of Dutch-style “coffee shops” to Ireland that would allow the consumption and sale of cannabis for over-18s under certain conditions.

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan told four years ago that he thought such coffee shops would work here.

The creation of a coffee-shop culture in Ireland might be what’s needed to incentivise cannabis-takers to use the drug in a regulated environment, he said.

Ryan said his party has looked at other jurisdictions, such as the US states of Colorado and California, where such moves have been successful.

While Ryan admitted the issue is a “complex” one, he said the current system is “feeding gangland culture”.

I think Portugal’s approach is a sensible one. They approach it as a health issue rather than a criminal issue. It is far more beneficial to society.

Despite his views in 2018, the now transport minister indicated last year that the Greens would likely not back a People Before Profit move to decriminalise cannabis as he feels Ireland is not ready to legalise it.

He said concerns remain for younger age groups that use particularly higher potency cannabis products which he said can have mental health impacts. 

“Looking forward to the next six months, it’s not from my end the central project that I’m involved in,” he said. 

The programme for government merely sets out to “examine the regulations and legislation that apply to cannabis use for medical conditions and palliative care, having regard to the experience in Northern Ireland and Great Britain”. 

At the time, when pressed on whether he would support a Bill to legalise cannabis, Ryan said in 2020 that he has always been in favour of a healthcare based approach.

“We’ll have to see what happens,” said Kenny this week, noting that positions can often change within parties once they enter into Government. 

He said it would also be interesting to see Sinn Féin’s stance on his Bill, as like many political parties there are individual TDs and senators that favour regulation of cannabis, but when speaking publicly they have to tow the party line.

The decriminalisation debate will come after recent controversy around the holding of a Citizens’ Assembly on drugs. 

Drugs Minister Frank Feighan said last month that preparations for the Citizens’ Assembly on Drugs had begun. It was previously confirmed to The Journal that it would not be taking place this year, as had been previously expected. 

Opposition politicians and campaigners were strongly critical of the decision to delay the Citizens’ Assembly on drugs, with Labour TD Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, who previously served as drugs minister, telling The Journal that he had “lost all patience and confidence in” Feighan as a result.

“This delay shows the lack of urgency, the lack of care, the lack of compassion of the Government. If Dublin doesn’t have a directly elected mayor in five years, no one will die. This delay is costing lives. It is a disgusting disgrace,” he said.  

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