By Roland Sebestyén
A new report suggests that cannabis use and possession have effectively been decriminalised in Ireland as prosecutions of such offences almost halved in 2021.
According to the Independent, the number of people charged or summoned for cannabis-related offences up to mid-December has fallen, as most of those caught with the substance received cautions instead of facing prosecution.
Garda figures show that compared to the 11,127 prosecutions in Ireland for the possession of cannabis in 2020, the figure had dropped to 5,957 for 2021 to the week ending December 14.
The change in approach comes after the possession and consumption of cannabis resin for personal use was added to Ireland’s Adult Cautioning Scheme at the end of 2020.
This new approach follows the shifting trend towards decriminalisation in Europe – and the rest of the world.
While the possession and consumption of cannabis and most other drugs are still strictly prohibited in the UK, Scotland recently announced the practical decriminalisation of drugs.
In September, Scotland’s lord advocate announced a new policy in which she said people found in possession of drugs will no longer face criminal charges.
Dorothy Bain QC said: “Police officers may therefore choose to issue a recorded police warning for simple possession offences for all classes of drugs.
“The purpose of the scheme is for individuals to be referred to a mentor to provide support at the first point of contact with police.”
Meanwhile, London Mayor Sadiq Khan plans to kick off his pilot scheme to decriminalise cannabis and Class B drugs such as ketamine and speed in the capital city.
According to a leaked proposal, cannabis consumption and possession will be decriminalised in three London boroughs – Lewisham, Bexley and Greenwich – first with the potential of eventually being extended to the whole of the city.
The scheme could be announced this month with the Mayor of Lewisham, Damien Egan, overviewing the programme.