Sparked by the unprecedented success of cannabis legalization and decriminalization efforts throughout the United States, more and more countries throughout the world are taking extraordinary steps to reform their own drug laws. Ireland is the latest country making political headway in decriminalizing cannabis for its citizens.
The push for decriminalization is being led by Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, Ireland’s newly appointed Minister of State with Responsibility for the Drug Strategy. This comes at a pivotal time for drug policy reform in Ireland, as the country’s current National Drugs Strategy is set to expire next year. This new strategy is quite the change of pace considering that just last year Irish authorities were handing out cannabis scented scratch and sniff cards to citizens in an effort to eradicate home cultivation with an anonymous tip hotline.
Similar to arguments made in the United States and other parts of the world for decriminalizing the use of marijuana, Ó Ríordáin explained,
“I believe someone who has an addiction issue should be dealt with through the health system and not the criminal justice system.”
This rational perspective on mental illness and the very real problem of prison overcrowding may be the strongest argument that will win over Irish citizens and their representatives in the coming year.
Ó Ríordáin quickly differentiated between decriminalization and legalization — making it clear that his immediate goals were for the former and not the latter.
While legalization may not be a sure thing for Ireland in the near future, the Minister Ó Ríordáin is open to the possibility of it being on the table for public debate. He warned,
“We need to have a proper discussion before we set up alarm bells in people’s heads.”
Given the spectrum of misinformation out there pertaining to cannabis and its use, the possibility of a rational discussion on the issue can be looked at as a great first step toward sensible policy reform.