How we can stop Ireland’s drug war slaughter: Legalise and control cannabis

Ireland a bastion of liberal humanism? You think?

You’d think, wouldn’t you, that Ireland is a bastion of liberal humanism, not at all isolated and insular out there on Europe’s western fringe, but a cosmopolitan, secular, fun place to be. You think?

A sign in St Stephen’s Green, Dublin. Take it literally.

Let’s get the story straight. Ireland has gay marriage, yes. We legalised contraception so long ago, in 1980! And homosexuality was decriminalised (thanks to David Norris and the European Convention on Human Rights) all the way back in 1993. That’s, like, the last century, people! We gave women control over their bodies by legalising abortion in 2018. Yes, 2018. We even have a tax on plastic bags. But on top of all the good stuff we still have the Catholic Church’s poisonous, sweaty fingers all over our Constitution, our schools and our healthcare. Religion’s toxic grip left a legacy including child abuse on a biblical scale, division with Northern Ireland’s hardcore Protestants, and politicians who have bent the knee to the Pope on virtually all matters of state. The halcyon days were back in the 1930s, when Eamon de Valera built a proto-fascist Catholic serfdom, while the political party that now runs Ireland – Fine Gael – even sent Blueshirts to Spain to fight for Franco.

Ireland’s police force was formed by the same guy who led Ireland’s fascists to Spain, and has since had to deal with terror campaigns across the island by the IRA, Protestant paramilitaries and the British Government (Dublin/Monaghan bombings, 1974, link below), as well as the non-political terror of drug cartels, paedophiles and corrupt bankers and politicians. They’re kept busy. On top of the over-stretched police force, we have a mostly-colonial prison system that’s bursting at the seams, and typically succeeds at turning young offenders into adult offenders.

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Medical cannabis dispensary, Denver, CO, USA.

Ireland’s billion euro drug market

With illegal drug sales worth at least €1 billion annually in Ireland, recreational cannabis accounts for a market worth €700 million here, with cocaine second at around €200 million. Meanwhile, the global market for medical cannabis is projected to be worth $44 billion by 2024, with the total (legal) cannabis market to be worth $146 billion by 2025, with the market for industrial hemp products to be worth around $10 billion by then. There are clearly enormous opportunities for job creation, new product development and green industry. Add the fact that hemp/cannabis absorbs 10 tons of CO2 per acre grown, and this is a green, sustainable industry, which can also displace many oil-derived products, worth many billions of euro.

More murders in Dublin’s drug wars as Irish Government considers limited liberalisation of cannabis law

Dublin is the centre of Ireland’s illegal drug trade, and there are gang-related murders almost daily. Dublin’s murder rate is one of the highest in Europe, higher than London or Paris, for example. This billion euro market is beyond the law. Current policing and penal approaches simply don’t work. If anything, the drug wars are getting worse.

The Irish Government should take this opportunity to face down the conservative forces that would prefer a populace sozzled on alcohol, and take an enlightened approach to cannabis, learning from the experience of places like Colorado, California and Canada, where cannabis is fully legalized and controlled by the state.

anti-cannabis-propaganda-us-1935
Anti-cannabis propaganda from the Reefer Madness era.

Here are 5 enlightened things the Irish Government can do regarding cannabis

1. Freedom of choice. Have an adult conversation about legal and illegal drugs, and the influences that history, culture and social change have had on our current legal and penal system. Consider that some people might prefer cannabis to alcohol, and this choice does no harm to anybody else.

2. Make possession of cannabis for personal use legal. This should include the freedom to grow cannabis in a safe environment. Further, all recorded convictions for simple possession should be expunged, and the police, courts and prisons should apologise for wasting so much time and resources on so petty an offence.

3. No point going Dutch, as we need to remove the drug gangs’ main source of income. State-licensed cannabis cultivators and retailers can deliver a better product at a cheaper price than criminal gangs. A single compliance network will allow for monitoring of effects on health and society. Bonus: tax on cannabis can generate huge sums for the Government (California has a 15% excise tax on cannabis sales, on top of local taxes and cultivator tax). So a 15% tax on retail sales of €700 million would directly generate €105 million in State taxes a year.

4. We can explore the enormous medical potential of cannabis and industrial hemp. THC (psychoactive) and CBD (non-psychoactive) are chemical compounds found in varying levels in cannabis and its sister plant, hemp. Together and separately, these compounds are now accepted by western medicine as helpful for people suffering from cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma, MS and more. The truth is, we don’t fully understand cannabis’s medical potential. But ‘big pharma’ is already in on the act. Let’s fully legalise medical cannabis, so that we can throw off the 1930s shackles that have hindered medical research, and lead the way in sharing new treatments with the world.

5. Cannabis is the largest source of revenue for drug gangs that also sell cocaine, heroin and ecstasy. By legalising the trade in cannabis, the market for upselling heroin dries up. International criminal networks supply much of the product sold in Ireland, and they typically throw in a few guns with deliveries. This makes drug turf wars kind of inevitable. We need to break the cycle. Even worse: Hash (cannabis resin) and heroin are produced in places like Afghanistan, so illegal drug sales in Ireland (and elsewhere) directly fund the Taliban, Islamic State and Al-Qaeda, on top of the local gangsters.

So, what’s next? Let’s be brave. Let’s embrace change, equality and freedom of choice, while building a safer society and a sustainable economy. This is why Ireland should legalise and regulate cannabis now.

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Learn more

Irish drug trade value, The Irish Times (2006): https://www.irishtimes.com/news/irish-market-for-illegal-drugs-now-worth-1bn-1.1015242

Proposals to liberalise cannabis laws, The Irish Times: https://www.irishtimes.com/news/health/proposals-to-liberalise-cannabis-laws-expected-before-cabinet-1.3898768

Cannabis laws in Ireland, Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cannabis_in_Ireland

Top 5 reasons for Ireland to legalise cannabis: http://www.readathriller.com/thriller/top-5-reasons-why-ireland-must-legalise-cannabis-now/

Dublin/Monaghan bombings, 1974, Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dublin_and_Monaghan_bombings


Image credits

Denver medical cannabis dispensary – © O’Dea at Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0 [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)]

Anti-cannabis propaganda from 1935, USA – Federal Bureau of Narcotics [Public domain]

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