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Deputy Michael McNamara

Call for cannabis possession to be included in adult caution scheme

DEPUTY Michael McNamara has called for possession of cannabis to be included on the adult caution scheme.

The Clare deputy raised the matter when speaking on a private members motion tabled by Deputy Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan and the technical group calling for cannabis regulation and legalisation last week.

Deputy McNamara highlighted that in 2006, the adult caution scheme was introduced, whereby gardaí could grant an adult caution for a list of offences if they believed it to be beneficial.

“It was proposed that the possession of cannabis – not possession with intent to supply – would be included on the list but it fell off the bottom. Additional offences have been added since in which an adult caution can be issued but possession of cannabis remains excluded. I asked the Minister for Justice and Equality in how many cases the Probation Act was applied to cases of cannabis possession in Ireland, and there appears to be approximately 1,500 cases on average every year. With these people, a file is prepared and a garda shows up in court before the Probation Act is applied. Is that useful for Garda resources in the constituencies around the country? It is not, and I urge the Minister to seriously consider adding possession of cannabis to the adult caution scheme,” he said.

He explained that including this offence on the adult caution scheme should not mean a caution would be always applied but if a Garda believes it to be the best course of action, there should be an option to do so. This was something he said was originally proposed by the Minister responsible for justice matters in 2006.

“A serious body of work has been done by the Government with regard to alcohol abuse and smoking but, regrettably, the counter-motion does not reflect a serious consideration of the drug problem in this country,” Deputy McNamara said.

He added that a commission should be established of senior policing experts, Revenue officials, doctors and people from the medical world to examine the situation.

“I agree with the Minister of State, Deputy White, that it is a radical proposal to legalise drugs, especially as we have built ourselves in a war on drugs mentality. I urge the Minister to set up a commission of senior gardaí, Revenue officials and senior policing experts worldwide, including the UN ODC and other organisations that work on the issue, to examine the effect of such a change. We are now out of kilter with the majority of states in Western Europe in terms of how we treat possession of cannabis,” he said.

It was argued during the debate that even if drugs are legalised, criminality will not be eradicated, which Deputy McNamara said was true.

“We are able to control nicotine, including the amount sold and to whom it is sold, by and large. We can get a clear picture of the problem and there is no such clear picture of drug use. We know drug use is increasing, and the chief executive of Merchants Quay Ireland has revealed that the scale of the country’s drug problem is increasing. He has stated that the spread of drug use outside Dublin is an ongoing trend, with continued demand for services at regional level,” the Scariff TD added.

The Clare deputy highlighted in his address that cannabis is becoming more dangerous as the variants which can be profitably grown by criminals in this country are more dangerous than those which used to be imported by other criminals.

“Criminals do what is most profitable without any concern for what is beneficial. I urge the Minister of State to move beyond the war mentality, because I fear it is a war which cannot be won, towards devising a workable solution to the drugs problem across the State,” he concluded.

About Carol Byrne

Carol Byrne is a reporter at The Clare Champion newspaper reporting on news in the East Clare area and the arts. She also covers the courts in County Clare and has received seven national awards for this coverage from the Law Society of Ireland and a National Lottery Local Ireland national media award for Best Community Story 2019. A Masters in Journalism graduate of NUI Galway, she also holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Limerick in Music and Media Studies, and a Higher Diploma in Irish Legal Studies. She began her career interning at The Limerick Leader and Clare FM, before taking up a full time post at The Clare Champion in 2006.

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