Ireland is the latest European country to take a step closer to cannabis legalization. Introduced by a People Before Profit Party member, the bill would legalize cannabis possession for adults over 18.
However, the bill doesn’t include cannabis sales or cultivation. It is more decriminalization than the commercialization of the industry. The bill says possessing up to seven grams “shall be lawful,” despite no commercial market.
A top government official is skeptical that the bill will become law. Right now, it’s in the lower chamber of Ireland’s legislature.
“I hope the government can support this legislation. It is timely. Different parts of the world are looking at different models which do not criminalize people and which take a harm-reduction approach. I look forward to the debate,” said Gino Kenny, the politician who introduced the bill.
How soon until cannabis legalization comes to Ireland?
Cannabis Prohibition in Ireland
The illegality of cannabis in Ireland stretches back to the Dangerous Drugs Act of 1934, making Ireland one of the first countries to ban cannabis (beating the United States by three years).
And like the United States, cannabis legalization in Ireland may be an uphill battle. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, in response to the popularity of cannabis, the Irish government cracked down by implementing harsher criminal penalties.
Even today, if police catch you “trafficking” a large amount of cannabis, you can face up to 10 years in prison.
That said, despite what the laws say, attitudes and tolerance have adjusted over the last twenty years. This isn’t the first time politicians have introduced a cannabis legalization bill in Ireland.
In 2013, a motion was put forth to legalize cultivation, possession, and a commercial market. However, within the Irish legislature, only eight people voted for it, with 111 voting in favour of continued prohibition.
MMJ in Ireland
In 2016, Gino Kenny introduced a private member’s bill to legalize medical cannabis. (The same politician that introduced the latest cannabis legalization in Ireland bill).
The government was cautious but went forward with it. Over two years, the Irish government only approved two dozen medical cannabis licences.
It wasn’t until June 2019 that medical cannabis legalization in Ireland took off. The Health Minister set up a new program that eased patients’ access by allowing them to buy cannabis at a pharmacy. It also expanded the criteria of who was eligible for medical cannabis.
The government called it a measure of “last resort,” since patients were travelling to countries like the Netherlands to get medical cannabis.
Cannabis Legalization in Ireland When?
There is still pushback about cannabis legalization in Ireland. The Irish prime minister worries that legalization would ” glamorize” cannabis use.
“I think we have to be careful that we don’t glamorize cannabis either because there are real concerns within the health community and the medical community about what cannabis can do to young people,” he told media.
As well, the current Irish government is a coalition between different parties, none of which have a unified (or even favourable) stance regarding cannabis legalization in Ireland.
That said, if cannabis legalization in Ireland becomes a reality, it will likely suffer from the same bureaucratic excesses that strangle cannabis legalization in Canada.
For example, the Irish PM said, “Cannabis can do real harm too, to young people, and many people in the medical world have said that to me. That’s just a concern I have.”
Translation: Cannabis may not benefit young adults. Ergo, I will take the advice of public health and continue with harmful prohibition or bureaucratic decriminalization instead of recognizing that people have a right to bodily autonomy.
It’s the same story no matter where you go. An undemocratic public health order kneecaps your right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
On a positive note, the Irish government announced a Citizens’ Assembly on Drug Use in 2023. If enough people express their desire for a classically liberal, legal market, then cannabis legalization in Ireland may be here sooner than later.