Cannabis legalization in Europe is a complex and varied issue, as different countries have different laws and approaches to cannabis policy. For example, some countries, such as the Netherlands, have a tolerance policy or “coffee shop” laws, which allows for the sale of small amounts of cannabis for personal use in designated establishments. In contrast, others, such as France, have strict laws against cannabis possession and use.
In recent years, there has been a growing movement in Europe toward cannabis legalization and decriminalization. Several countries, such as Spain, Portugal, and the Czech Republic, have decriminalized the possession of small amounts of cannabis for personal use. Other countries, such as Germany, have made recent announcements toward a push for legalization.
The latest to make a move towards change is Ireland. Here’s what you need to know as Ireland plans to legalize recreational cannabis.
Cannabis Reform in the Emerald Isle
Ireland is joining the cannabis conversation in Europe by introducing a bill to legalize recreational cannabis for personal use. The bill, introduced by People Before Profit MP, also known as Teachta Dála (TD), Gino Kenny, would modify the Misuse of Drugs Act, which was put in place in 1977. The new law would permit adults over 18 to possess seven grams of cannabis flower or up to two and a half grams of hashish or cannabis resin.
This bill, however, does not allow citizens to grow cannabis for personal use, nor does it include language that would allow for the sale of cannabis products through regulated channels. This means that cannabis users will likely continue to purchase their cannabis from the illegal market.
TD Kenny has stated that the bill is quite moderate and that the existing legislation needs to be updated. He believes that there needs to be a different narrative around drug reform. The bill needs to be voted on by the Dáil Éireann, the lower house of the Irish Parliament, to be approved.
The move to legalize cannabis for personal use in Ireland differs from the approach taken by other European countries. In December 2021, Malta became the first EU member to legalize cannabis for personal use but also regulated the cultivation of cannabis plants, which is an essential element in controlling the illicit market and ensuring safer products.
Hurdles Ahead of Legalization
The bill is expected to face challenges in gaining approval from the government, as the current coalition between Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil, and the Green party do not have a favorable stance on cannabis policy. Additionally, some TDs may personally agree to amend the Misuse of Drugs Act but vote against it due to their party’s political stance.
Prime Minister Taoiseach Micheál Martin has expressed concern about the potential harm of cannabis to young people. He has stated that he would prefer a system that decriminalizes and helps people with challenges related to harmful substances such as cannabis. He also noted that the government would consult the Gardaí, the national police service of Ireland, when considering the bill.
Ireland has recently regulated access to some medical cannabis products for specific medical conditions. However, the medical cannabis program still faces issues, and patients need to be approved by the Health Ministry in order to access treatment with medical cannabis.