Home > … and the Minister replies.

(2013) … and the Minister replies. Drugnet Ireland, Issue 46, Summer 2013, p. 11.

PDF (Drugnet Ireland 46) - Published Version

On 21 March 2013 the Minister for Health, James Reilly TD, gave his thoughts on the report published by the Office of the President Being young and Irish: take charge of change, and explained what he was doing to help realise the young peoples’ vision for Ireland. He said that he shared the young people’s concerns and listed the initiatives being progressed by his department.1 

The minister reported that ‘real and tangible proposals’ were being finalised on foot of the recommendations in the report of the Steering Group on a National Substance Misuse Strategy 2012, mainly in the areas of legislation on minimum unit pricing, access to and availability of alcohol, advertising and sponsorship. He noted that the Cabinet Committee on Social Policy had also considered the matter and was to bring forward specific proposals for consideration by government as soon as possible. In the meantime, work on developing a framework for the necessary Department of Health legislation was continuing.
Legalising cannabis
The Minister’s reply is given here verbatim:
International research shows that significant physical and mental health risks are associated with long-term cannabis use. These include increased risks of developing lung and throat cancer (smoke from cannabis contains more carcinogenic tars than does tobacco smoke) and risks associated with the development of mental illness, such as schizophrenia and depression. The potency of cannabis products can also vary greatly. The 2011 NACD study The potency of THC in cannabis products reported the growing concern about the significant rise in the potency levels in some cannabis products over the last number of years, particularly in herbal cannabis. Concerns have also been raised that cannabis produced in Ireland, and used relatively quickly, has a higher potency than imported varieties. There is also evidence that cannabis plants generally are being genetically engineered to ensure they produce high levels of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). Legalisation would be likely to lead to greatly increased levels of experimentation, leading to significantly increased levels of sustained long term use causing increased health problems in our society. Indeed, the situation that pertained only a few years ago in Ireland in regard to the volume of new psychoactive substances sold in headshops illustrates this point. People were prepared to experiment with readily available legal products, despite the publicity regarding the consequences. Legalisation would be unlikely to significantly reduce the level of criminality surrounding the broader market in illicit drugs. Also, if cannabis was legalised, it would most likely be strongly regulated and probably heavily priced to influence demand (as in the case of tobacco). This in turn could lead to the continuation of an illicit market on similar lines to the black market of cigarettes. Overall, the amount of money likely to be raised in tax would be small in relation to the health and other implications arising. Cannabis was re-classified from a Class C drug to a Class B drug in the UK in 2009. This decision was taken in the light of the "real public concern about the potential mental health affects [sic] of cannabis use, in particular the use of stronger forms of the drug.

Finally, any possibility of legalising cannabis has to be looked at in a European and global context. A unilateral decision to legalise its use here would most likely lead to Ireland becoming a destination for those from other countries who wish to use cannabis. In view of the evidence available I am not in favour of legalising the use of cannabis at this time.
The Minister stated that his department was developing a new tobacco policy with the aim of ‘denormalising’ tobacco smoking and so leading to a tobacco-free society. The new policy will have a particular emphasis on children. It is envisaged that the policy will be completed by mid-2013.

[Also see Drugnet article, The President gets young people talking..., https://www.drugsandalcohol.ie/20131/]

1. Reilly, J (2013, 21 March) Parliamentary Debates Dáil Éireann (Official report: unrevised): Written answers. Presidential reports. Vol. 797, No. 2, p. 561. Question(s) 253.http://oireachtasdebates.oireachtas.ie/Debates%20A...

Item Type
Publication Type
Irish-related, Open Access, Article
Drug Type
Alcohol, Cannabis, Tobacco / Nicotine
Intervention Type
Issue Title
Issue 46, Summer 2013
July 2013
Page Range
p. 11
Health Research Board
Issue 46, Summer 2013
Accession Number
HRB (Electronic Only)
Related (external) link

Repository Staff Only: item control page