The decriminalisation of drugs is a ‘no-brainer’ and cannabis should be legalised and regulated in Ireland, according to a doctor specialising in substance abuse.
Dr Garrett McGovern from the Priority Medical Clinic in Dundrum was speaking to The Hard Shoulder after presenter Kieran Cuddihy was sent a joint in the post by cannabis reform campaigners.
The campaigners this month sent the cannabis packages to TDs, media personalities and even President Michael D Higgins in a bid to highlight National Legalise Cannabis Day which fell on Friday 5th November.
Those behind the letter said they were, “yet again engaging in this campaign of civil disobedience in the hope the Government will end this inhumane prohibition of a plant which, when used correctly, can be incredibly beneficial.”
Dr McGovern told Kieran that while he hoped to one day see cannabis legalised and regulated, decriminalisation is more likely in the shorter term.
“I just don’t think there is any argument across the board for criminalising people who are using drugs – and there are a lot of people who are using drugs,” he said.
“If the goal of criminalising people is to deter use and reduce prevalence, it has failed and you have to then ask the question, if it is failing why are we continuing to do it?”
Dr McGovern noted that decriminalisation means the drugs remain illegal but people would no longer be criminally prosecuted for personal possession.
Legalisation on the other hand would involve proper regulations, quality testing, sales and jobs.
"Decriminalization is a no-brainer," he said. "I really don’t think anybody in receipt of drugs for personal use should be criminalised and that will always be my view."
Misuse of Drugs Act
He said it is past time for a debate on Ireland’s drug laws – which have not been properly reviewed since 1977.
“I work in an area and I work with some very marginalised communities where they are ravaged by illicit drugs and we can’t seem to change that,” he said.
“We seem to kind of just keep going and hoping in some way that one day we will wake up and it will all go away.
“Well, it is isn’t going to go away. People are dying in those environments and the illegality of the drug is a problem.”
He said legalising and regulated the drugs will not end the problem – but noted that we are never going to get a perfect model when it comes to potentially harmful substances.
“There is going to be harm and there is going to be addiction,” he said.
“I just think we have got to look at our drug related deaths and our alcohol related deaths - we are very, very high in the EU and indeed worldwide in terms of where we stand on that - and we have to look at the legality and illegality of drugs and see what contribution is that making to these deaths and harms.”
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