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Ireland: Luke 'Ming' Flanagan among group of MEPs seeking to promote the legalisation of cannabis for personal use
Ruairi Scott Byrne
Saturday 30 Jul 2022
Luke Ming-Flanagan is one of five MEPs who have come together to create an informal interest group who support human rights-based policies relating to the personal use of cannabis.
In an open letter to the 705 Members of the European Parliament encouraging MEPs to join the informal group, the five MEPs say thet welcome the recent developments on cannabis legalisation in Germany, Malta and Luxembourg and call for more information sharing between Member States on the topic.
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"Due to outdated and unpredictable patchwork of legislation, citizens across the EU are often finding themselves being forced to turn to the black market or even worse, imprisoned for being in possession of small amounts of cannabis for personal use,” state the MEPs.
“This does not reflect the level of freedom we have come to expect from living in Europe.”
“However” state the MEPs, “we cannot deny that with new legislation coming forward within EU Member States, we are likely to find ourselves facing repercussions at an EU level,” referring to the recent developments across the EU and beyond.
“As MEPs, we want to build on this momentum and create a cross-party interest group within the European Parliament, where we will share best practices, talk to experts, organise hearings and conferences, as well as debate the situation of personal use of cannabis within the Union.”
What has been said?
Upon the announcement of the group's formation, Irish Member of the European Parliament, Luke “Ming” Flanagan said: “Legal cannabis is safer. This is an indisputable fact.
"Many countries around the EU are slowly but surely waking from the nightmare of cannabis prohibition.”
MEP Flannagan, who hails from The Left Group in the European Parliament added: “The European Parliament must give voice to this reality.
“The formation of this group is a significant move at a significant time in the drive to change what has been a catastrophic law for many otherwise law abiding EU citizens.”
Maltese Member of the European Parliament Cyrus Engerer said: “No one should go to jail over a joint, but unfortunately many citizens across the European Union still find themselves locked up just for possessing small quantities of cannabis.
"While countries like Malta are taking the brave step to look towards legalisation policies which combat black market supply while providing citizens their personal freedom, others are lagging far behind.
"The patchwork of policies across the EU, and the emergence of other countries warming up to the idea of legalising cannabis is sure to create a lot of discussion in terms of European, Schengen and single-market law. This is why we need to start the conversation”.
Cannabis in Ireland
Irish people are certainly big fans of the drug. We have one of the highest rates of cannabis usage in the EU, with nearly a third (27.9 per cent) of adults between 15 and 64 having tried weed at least once in their lives.
Meanwhile, 17 per cent of the adult population used the drug within the past 12 months – or around 550,000 people. This is more than double the European average of 7 per cent.
However, all recreational use of the drug is currently illegal. Possession of cannabis comes with fines of up to €2,500 or three years in prison. Gardaí made over 3,500 seizures of hash, herb or plants in 2019 worth an estimated €16.4 million in total.
Medical cannabis is legal for specific conditions, like epilepsy, once all other treatment options have been tried. But the first ever prescription under the Medical Cannabis Access Programme was only approved this week, four years after the scheme was launched.
Several Irish politicians have recently spoken out in favour of relaxing our laws, including Green Party leader Eamon Ryan and PBP TD Gino Kenny.
Even Health Minister Stephen Donnelly has said he would support decriminalising “small quantities of weed”.
He told Hot Press in 2017: “If a grown adult wants to grow a herb and then smoke it, and there are no negative consequences for other people, then they should be allowed to do that.
“Any such approach would have to be done in the context of medical research showing that smoking weed as a minor can lead to longer-term mental health challenges.
“It would also need to be done mindful of ‘drug tourism’ – a la Amsterdam – which is not something we want here.”
Speaking in 2013, then-TD Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan claimed the Irish economy would net €300 million every year under an Amsterdam-style system.
However, earlier this year, a poll for The Journal found just 39 per cent of the population are in favour of recreational legalisation. And a recent major government report into drugs policy failed to mention any possibility of weed becoming legal and taxed.
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