Time to clear the air on cannabis
Users believe cannabis – most popular with higher socioeconomic groups – is now socially acceptable, and most people would like it legalised for medicinal use. But should it be?
“I have a lot of problems with chemo including loss of appetite and nausea,” he says. “Cannabis worked better than anything they could give me in hospital. When I ran out of dope, I’d be throwing up for 12 hours non-stop. When I have dope, I would barely notice there was anything wrong with me. It made that kind of difference.”
Rua says he is not as interested in the cannabis spray that is being suggested for medical use and prefers to buy it in its original, herbal form. He has come to know which types of cannabis work best for him and he sticks to trusted suppliers. He believes the vast majority of people have no problem with the Government legalising cannabis for medicinal use and many doctors are aware patients use it.
“I’m the one guy in the chemo ward not getting sick and moaning about the horrible treatment. I wish the rest of those beside me could feel the same, but we are limited by the law.”
While acceptance of medicinal use of cannabis is progressing, those at the frontline of substance addiction lead arguments against legalising recreational use of cannabis.
Dr Fiona Weldon, clinical director of the Rutland Centre, says she finds it hard to understand how the drug is so socially acceptable, given its effects. “For the past 10 years, I have found the attitude to cannabis in this country incredible. There is a lot of evidence internationally about the damage it does but people still hold on to the view that it is a recreational drug and the lesser of all the evils out there.”
Similarly, at the Aislinn Adolescent Addiction Centre in Kilkenny, where 15- to 21-year-olds are treated for addiction, family services manager Geraldine Hartnett says cannabis use is present in the majority of cases they come in contact with. “The trends we are seeing are that approximately 95 per cent of young people who come into us identify cannabis as one of their drugs and, in some cases, their main drug. “We were struck by the fact that there is this call to make it legal and it seems to be more socially acceptable.”
Independent TD Luke “Ming” Flanagan, who has long campaigned for the legalisation of cannabis, believes it is only a matter of time before steps are taken to make it legal in Ireland. He will introduce his own cannabis legalisation bill in the Dáil in the autumn, and he points to other countries and states where it has been made legal in recent years.
“Places such as Colorado and Washington are legalising it, as well as Ecuador, Bolivia and Mexico. There is an evolution taking place. Legalisation is on the way here and I don’t think anything will stop it,” he says.