Last weekend the Sunday Indepedent ran an article entitled Cannabis use on rise but there’s no plans to turn ‘blind eye’ to it
The article reveals that Garda and Customs ‘sources’ have stated that there are no plans to turn a blind eye to cannabis users in Ireland.
The declaration came following the announcement by some police in the UK that it would be turning a blind eye to people using cannabis and small time growers
Ron Hogg, who is Durham’s police and crime commissioner, suggested the new policy is to save costs, to keep users out of criminal justice system, and to focus resources on organised crime.
Since then at least three other areas in the UK have suggested they will follow a similar path. PCC Hogg’s colleagues in Derbyshire, Dorset and Surrey also revealed they will turn a blind eye
However it should be noted that cannabis users are still at risk of prosecution, and that police insist they will enforce the law if there are complaints about cannabis consumption or cultivation.
This move largely appears to be on the basis of saving limited resources, although RCC Hogg stated “There’s a resource issue, we must also be clear about that, but we are doing it because it’s the right approach.”
While some activists and media have declared this news as de-facto decriminalisation, it remains to be seen how true such sentiment is.
It is realistically just another step in that direction, and not the final hurdle itself. But such a move is to be welcomed.
However as the Sunday Independent article suggested there are no plans for such a shift in policy here. Which is not be be unexpected, but is a shame considering what else is revealed in the article.
The Sunday Independent reported that 186,794 people were arrested for drug offences between 1994 and 2014. Most significant is the revelation that roughly 90% (around 160,000) of these offences were deemed for ‘personal possession’
While many of those convicted don’t receive a prison sentence, they may still get a criminal record.
As the article states these people are then “automatically deemed criminals” and “have their criminal record catalogued on the Garda Pulse database”.
The article outlines that following a conviction there can be problems seeking employment within Ireland and the EU, and in most non-EU states.
The article reveals that only a small number of convictions are for importation and that “Garda and Customs fail to make any significant impact on major traffickers”.
In 2014, a total of 15,933 people were prosecuted by gardai under the Misuse of Drugs Act. 11,279 of these individuals were prosecuted for ‘personal use’. Which means around 75% of drug prosecutions last year were regarded as ‘personal use’ offences.
Surely a simple change in policy could ensure that we save countless time and resources by not pursuing pointless cases.
All eyes are on the UK now for the coming days and weeks. Hopefully politicians and garda here are starting to pay attention to the policy changes unfolding globally.
I wouldn’t hold my breathe though.