Cannabis report: There is merit in decriminalising cannabis but really it should be regulated – TD

Gino-Kenny-TDFrom the Irish Examiner:

Gino Kenny says prohibition is enriching criminals, while people using marijuana as medicine are being criminalised

In a number of recent court cases, medicinal use has been claimed as a defence for possession of cannabis.

These included the case of John Montaine in Clare. The partner of Independent TD Violet-Anne Wynne, Mr Montaine was fined €100 after a guilty plea was entered on his behalf to a charge of illegal possession of cannabis at the family home in 2021.

His solicitor said that Mr Montaine has been seizure-free for the past six years after taking a cannabis derivative, THC oil.

In another case in Cork, a man was given 200 hours of community service after he pleaded guilty to growing cannabis for his father, who is ill.  The court heard that Orin Cooney from Knockarourke, Donoughmore, Co Cork, had been given the plants as seedlings by his father, who used cannabis to medicate for a serious medical condition.

People Before Profit TD Gino Kenny is hoping to introduce a bill before the Dáil to end the criminalisation of cannabis.

Mr Kenny has been an advocate for medical cannabis and says the current Irish system is criminalising people unnecessarily.

He believes cannabis should be legalised and regulated like alcohol to take it away from the black market and end people being sanctioned for its consumption, cultivation, and possession.

Mr Kenny adds that there would be a revenue stream from it too, which he said it would be a better system.

Mr Kenny says people are being brought before the courts for possession of “tiny amounts of cannabis”.

“We have got it all wrong, I would suggest,” he says. “There is definitely merit in decriminalisation but it needs to go further than that — it needs to be regulated.

“That is the better way of taking people out of the criminal justice system,” he says. “It happened in other countries and the world has not fallen apart because of it. To me, it is a better system.”

He accepts that there is an issue with synthetic cannabis products and the strength of cannabis.

He adds:  “Of course there are people who have a cannabis dependency and of course there are situations where it will have an adverse effect on their mental health. I am not trivialising that — it is an issue and it is a reality.

“But a system where it is being driven underground and there is no regulation is not right.”

He believes the current Irish system has enriched a small number of people “which take over communities and cause chaos and subject communities to severe violence”.

Mr Kenny also believes the focus of the current Medical Cannabis Access Programme needs to be expanded.

“The programme is extremely limited and needs to expand to include other conditions, particularly neuropathic pain,” he says. “It is one of the main medical conditions where medical cannabis can work.”

He points out that the Danish medical cannabis access programme includes neuropathic pain, and believes the current programme in Ireland is “not fit for purpose”.

He says the programme has to be expanded to cover more conditions because it will be pointless having such a programme for such a small number of people.

There are currently 12 people approved under the MCAP, according to the Department of Health.

A department spokeswoman said: “In 2022, following completion of an updated evidence review, the Department plans to establish an expert group to further review the use of cannabis for medical use.

“Members have not yet been appointed to this review panel as work is ongoing on the research aspect of this work.”