The number of people charged or issued summons due to possession of drugs has dropped by nearly 50% in Ireland after lawmakers introduced criminal reforms.
The figures fell sharply following the introduction of a system that would allow law enforcement to deal with cannabis possession using caution instead of criminal charges. According to Ganjapreneur, the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions will head the revolutionary program with assistance from the national police service, Garda Síochána.
The Garda Press Office released figures which revealed that the number of people issued with warrants or charged with simple drug possession dropped from 11,127 in 2020 to 5,957 in 2021.
Furthermore, the Irish Times reported 60 charges relating to the cultivation of cannabis or poppy plants as of December 14, 2021, down from 178 in the previous year.
The cause of this significant decline in criminal activity is due to the expansion of the Adult Cautioning Scheme to cover section 3 of the Misuse of Drugs Act.
The program can only apply to people in possession of cannabis or cannabis resins for personal use. Law enforcement must also consider the type, quantity, and value of the cannabis and other smoking accessories they find alongside before applying the warning.
Research has shown that legalizing cannabis has led to the reduction of race-based arrests in the United States. Consequently, similar actions have brought desirable results in Ireland.
Still, the Garda will use strict criteria to determine who is legible for the Adult Cautioning Scheme rather than prosecution. For instance, a person of mature age without any prior offenses would be a better candidate for the caution than a habitual criminal.
Ireland legalized the use of prescription medical cannabis in 2020 in what many called a milestone move. The pilot program launched by Health Minister Simon Harris had plenty of restrictions and a seemingly bleak future in the country. The move to apply the Adult Cautioning Scheme to simple cannabis possession is a significant landmark for cannabis reforms in Ireland.
The considerable drop in Irish people charged with drug possession comes against the backdrop of several countries in Europe considering cannabis reforms. Late last year, Malta became the first country in the European Union to legalize the possession and cultivation of cannabis.
While cannabis reforms still face tough opposition from prohibition, it’s only a matter of time before more European countries jump on the legalization bandwagon.