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Monday 10 December 2018

Grow your own at home as Greens call for new cannabis laws

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan has called for a new national drugs strategy as the current system is not working
Green Party leader Eamon Ryan has called for a new national drugs strategy as the current system is not working

Dublin could see Dutch-style coffee shops that allow the sale and use of cannabis under plans for decriminalisation of the drug launched by the Green Party.

It comes amid an international trend towards decriminalising cannabis, which has become legal in a number of states in the US in recent years, including California and Oregon.

The Green Party said the current law has "made criminals out of decent people" and needs to change.

Criminal

Its proposal is for criminal offences to be removed for people over the age of 18 possessing less than five grammes of the drug.

The party has also called for access to cannabis-based medicines under a supervised system, similar to that which operates in Germany.

Individuals would be allowed to grow up to two cannabis plants in their own home for personal use under the proposals.

The party, which laid out its plan over the weekend, had in 2016 made recommendations to the Government's National Drugs Strategy.

At the time, party leader Eamon Ryan said it was supporting implementing a regime of decriminalising drug use in Ireland, along the lines of Portuguese reforms in 2001.

"The Portuguese model reduces the burden on law enforcement and the criminal justice system, facilitates better research on the health impact of drugs and undermines the profit-making abilities of criminal gangs," he said.

"The current system is not working, so we'd like to see the new National Drugs Strategy address the inherent shortcomings."

Yesterday, the party reiterated its position and said under its proposal gardai would be instructed to tolerate Dutch-style coffee shops allowing the consumption and sale of cannabis for over-18s under certain conditions.

Speaking on Saturday at the Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP) national conference in the Cork Institute of Technology, Oliver Moran, the party's representative in Cork North Central, said the policy comes from an aspiration for harm reduction.

"The Dutch model, with regulated cultivation, is safer than what we have now," he said.

"Many of the potential objections such as addiction, teenage access, clarity on its medical impact and so on are not addressed at all by the current system."

Mr Moran praised the work done by SSDP and other organisations in raising the level of discussion on cannabis-related issues.

"It's no longer all that unusual or out there to support the legalisation of cannabis, but we still need vocal support for drug-law reform to build political will," he said.

"That's what you and this conference is an example of.

"Referendums on same-sex marriage and abortion would have been unthinkable only a few years ago.

Landmark

"It took ordinary people who weren't afraid to tell their stories to normalise the everyday and break those taboos."

In a landmark case for this country, in 2017 mother Vera Twomey won approval after a long campaign to secure medical cannabis for her daughter Ava (8).

Ava suffers from a severe form of epilepsy called Dravet syndrome, which at one point caused her to suffer 16 seizures in just 36 hours.

Vera and her daughter travelled to the Netherlands last summer so Ava could receive cannabidiol oil and tetrahydrocannabinol oil to help alleviate the symptoms and aid her treatment.

Last Christmas, Ava was granted a special licence which allows her to receive cannabis treatments at home in Aghabullogue, Co Cork.

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