Private Members Business – Cannabis regulation

PaulConnaughton-2-150x150

Dáil Éireann 8 November 2013

 

Deputy Paul J. Connaughton: I am grateful for the opportunity to speak on this issue and very much welcome this debate. One thing that I find frustrating about Private Member’s business is that some people use it as an opportunity to just come into the House and knock proposals, declare an inability to do things and ask whether there is any point in even having a debate.

We must start with the reality of the situation. This drug is available the length and breadth of this country, in every town and village. Not starting with that context would be misleading from the outset. This drug exists, people have access to it and what we want to do about that is the next issue. I have my own concerns regarding this particular proposal and would not support the full legalisation of cannabis. However, to suggest that it is not accessible to people at the moment would be totally wrong. I have no issue whatsoever with legalising cannabis for medical reasons. We have all met people in our clinics who have been told by their GPs that this drug, for medical reasons, could give them much comfort and support. That must be examined further and I believe the Minister of State, Deputy White, mentioned last night that Sativex will eventually come on the market here, which would be very welcome.

We cannot compare cannabis to other illegal drugs like heroin or cocaine. We can lump them in together if we want but that would not reflect the reality of the situation. We must take the proposal at face value, dealing solely with cannabis. There are people in this Chamber who will vote against this motion tonight, a small number of whom are hypocrites. Those same people have no issue with people having two or three pints at night and then driving home. They do not have concerns with alcohol but when it comes to cannabis, they will slap this proposal down straight away and say “No”. I am not agreeing with legalising cannabis because of the alcohol situation but we cannot have it both ways. Alcohol is as much a drug as cannabis. There are more families the length and breadth of this country which have been destroyed by the misuse and abuse of alcohol than by illegal drugs. Again, I am not saying we should legalise cannabis for that reason but we cannot be so hypocritical as to suggest that they are not linked in any way.

In two and a half minutes, or even in three hours, it is not possible to discuss this issue in as much detail as it deserves. Tonight should not mark the end of this debate but should be the beginning of it. I am not saying that we should legalise cannabis completely but we must examine all of the options. We cannot keep coming into this House, saying one thing and then going outside and saying something else. We have an issue in this country with alcohol as much as with drugs. Unless we face up to that we cannot have an honest debate about this issue.