Our Criminal unit in Healy O’Connor Solicitors deals with a lot of District Court Criminal matters in respect of drug possession whether for sale and supply or just for personal consumption. A lot of different people from a lot of different walks of life can find themselves before the courts in respect of cannabis and other drugs. Whatever your personal views on drugs are, currently in Ireland it is a criminal offence to be found in possession of a controlled substance.
There haven’t been too many people in this country willing to put their heads above the parapet in respect of the debate on drugs in our society. Other than the notable exception of Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan who has decamped to Europe. Surely, it is time that we have a meaningful debate on our country’s drug policy and attitude towards drugs?
As we know some states in America have now reversed their policy on ‘softer’ drugs and in particular cannabis and have decriminalised the possession of same. It will be interesting to see what affect this will have on the administration of law in those States.
From a Law and Economics perspective one of the big arguments is the correlation that is made with prohibition in America on alcohol in the 1920’s. This led to a large criminalisation of the population and was a hugely unpopular statute. When it was appealed there was a huge bump in cost savings from a Law and Administration. This has to be one of the main arguments for the decriminalisation of certain drugs in this country.
Any look at the workings of your local District Court will see that it involves Solicitors on Legal Aid, a Judge who is in the employ of the State, Probation Officers not to mention the Garda time and effort that has gone into apprehending these people. One should wonder whether our society would be better served if all this time and effort was expended on other crimes or invested in other more socially constructive efforts.
Recently the New York Times has reported that the New York Mayor is rethinking their approach on marijuana possession. The New York Policy Department arrests tens of thousands of people every year for low level marijuana possession and are now considering moving to issuing these people with tickets instead. Interestingly, New York City adopted a zero policy attitude towards all criminal behaviour in the 1980’s and this had a huge knock on affect across all crime statistics. It was the ‘no broken window’ policy which has been copied world wide since.
However, it has been argued that the stop and frisk tactics of the New York Police Department could be seen as perhaps a racist policy due to the large Black and Latino communities which were affected by the stop and frisk policing. It will be interesting to see how far New York does go with their re-think on marijuana possession.
Healy O’Connor Solicitors Criminal Unit.