858 of 2,000 signatures

To Citizens' Assembly

Criminalisation of drug users and the communities they belong to puts people's health at risk.

The only people benefitting from a zero-tolerance approach to cannabis are violent gangs and international drug cartels. Decriminalisation would help to break cycles of poverty and marginalisation.

Addiction is real and needs to be addressed with care and compassion. However, all drug use should not be equated with addiction. The biggest form of addiction in Ireland is alcohol, yet the use of alcohol and tobacco is entirely normalised.

The focus on illicit drug use masks the deep structural inequalities facing many communities. As a consequence there is much less focus on the effects of poverty, the need for quality universal public services, youth and community work and meaningful education and employment.

In 2021 Uplift commissioned economic think tank TASC to examine the social, environmental and economic opportunities presented by changing the legal status of cannabis in Ireland. Here is a summary of the main findings from this research. The full report is linked at the end of this submission.

Social Considerations
There is conclusive evidence that cannabis is less dangerous in terms of public health than the legalised drugs alcohol and tobacco..

There is conclusive evidence of the health benefits of cannabis in the treatment of chronic pain, multiple sclerosis spasticity symptoms and multiple other conditions.

A small increase in the risk of psychosis or schizophrenia from the use of cannabis, especially daily use, along with the effects of smoking, are areas of concern.

The social toll of criminalisation is significant, particularly in low-income communities, - stigmatisation, debt, lost employment opportunities and poverty stemming from convictions.

Criminalisation can start at a young age and can result in lifelong challenges for individuals - accessing jobs, accommodation.

Misconceptions about cannabis, such as the reputation of cannabis as a “gateway” drug has never been fully substantiated by research.

Environmental Considerations
Hemp is a frontrunner to provide a “nature-based solution” to the climate crisis. One hectare of industrial hemp can absorb 15 tonnes of CO2 per hectare per year.

Economic Considerations
Prohibition Partners, estimate that, by 2028, the market for medicinal cannabis in Ireland could be €1 billion.

Ireland has a similar population to Colorado, which legalised cannabis use in 2014. The tax in Colorado is 15% – significantly below the VAT rate in Ireland – so Irish cannabis tax returns could be far in excess of the $325 million in taxation revenue and fees collected in Colorado yearly.

Ireland is seen as an attractive location for cannabis production companies. In the past decade a number of US companies have expressed an interest in entering the Irish market.

Read the full Uplift and TASC research report

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