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Irish Lawmaker Files Bill To Legalize Marijuana Possession For Adults, Draws Early Criticism From Top Government Official



An Irish lawmaker has filed a bill to legalize marijuana possession nationwide for adults 18 and older—but a top government official has already raised concerns about the reform proposal.

People Before Profit TD Gino Kenny introduced the long-anticipated legislation on Thursday. It would legalize possession of up to seven grams of cannabis and 2.5 grams of marijuana resin for personal adult use.

The bill is currently before the Dáil Éireann, the lower chamber of Ireland’s legislature. It’s not clear if lawmakers from competing parties will work to advance it, but the the sponsor said that he expects the body to have a “wider debate” on cannabis reform “next year.”

“The bill itself is quite moderate. It’s amending existing legislation that dates back 42 years ago—and 42 years ago was a very, very long time,” Kenny said on the floor. “We need a different narrative in relation to drug reform, because criminalizing people for small possessions of any drug, particularly cannabis, is a complete waste of time and it’s a waste of resources.”

Watch Kenny discuss the marijuana legalization bill, starting around 4:15:00 into the video below:

While the sponsor has sought to distinguish the bill as decriminalization, rather than legalization, the bill itself says that possession of up to seven grams of marijuana by adults “shall be lawful,” even if there wouldn’t be a commercial market.

“I think there’s a groundswell of opinion, not only in Ireland, but across the world, for something very different—a different narrative and a different status quo, because the status quo at the moment doesn’t work,” he said.

Medical cannabis is legal in Ireland, but patients must be individually approved by the Health Ministry and there’s been some criticism of delays with the government’s rollout of the program, according to Volteface.

Meanwhile, Taoiseach Micheál Martin, who serves as the head of Ireland’s government, has already signaled that he may represent a barrier to advancing the modest reform, warning about the consequences of “glamorizing” marijuana use ahead of the bill’s introduction.

The former health minister said that he’s “not necessarily” in favor of legalizing low-level possession and suggested that he considered the seven gram limit arbitrary, as The Independent reported. He also said “there are real concerns within the health community and the medical community about what cannabis can do to young people.”

“I will examine it and we will look at data and we’ll take advice from a number of disciplines—be it policing, be it health,” Martin said. “And certainly, I would prefer a system that decriminalizes in the sense that were there to help people with challenges with harmful substances such as cannabis.”

In an op-ed about his bill, Kenny pointed to a growing international movement to reform marijuana policies.

“There is precedent for Ireland to legislate for the decriminalization of cannabis for personal use,” he wrote. “Across the world countries are recognizing that prohibition of cannabis has not worked, it has only enriched and emboldened the black market.”

Indeed, marijuana reform efforts have picked up within governments of several European countries in recent years.

Germany’s Federal Cabinet recently approved a plan to legalize marijuana nationwide. But officials said that its fate ultimately rests in whether international and European policy allows the country to move ahead.

Over the summer, top officials from Germany, Luxembourg, Malta and the Netherlands held a first-of-its-kind meeting to discuss plans and challenges associated with recreational marijuana legalization.

Malta became the first country in the European Union to legalize marijuana late last year.

A novel international survey that was released in April found majority support for legalization in several key European countries.

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Image element courtesy of Ron Cogswell.

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