Shine supports the statement released by The Cannabis Risk Alliance yesterday, that claims that the Government is “sleepwalking” toward legalising the cannabis drug for medicinal purposes, without considering the harms associated with its use.
Shine acknowledges and recognises that there is significant illegal use of cannabis in various forms in Ireland. Shine is aware that the Minister for Health, Simon Harris, TD, is planning to sign off on legislation to underpin the medicinal cannabis scheme in the coming weeks and that the Government said last year, that it was considering decriminalising possession of small quantities of cannabis and other drugs.
As a national voluntary organisation, supporting and working with people with severe mental ill health, and their families, Shine does not support the decriminalisation of cannabis for social and recreational use, and will only support the legalisation of cannabis for medicinal use, if it is safe and managed in a controlled manner.
Recent studies have demonstrated that for those who have a vulnerability to mental ill health, including a family history or previous mental health difficulties, cannabis can precipitate a psychotic illness such as schizophrenia. Similar studies show that those who use cannabis, experience psychosis five years earlier than those who don’t use the drug.
John Saunders, CEO of Shine said; “There is strong evidence from various large international studies of a link between cannabis use and mental health problems, with the strongest evidence for schizophrenia. There is also considerable evidence of the effects of long term cannabis use on intellectual and physical functions and there is evidence that exposure to the drug during adolescence may lead to higher incidents of mental illness in the future”.
He continues; “We agree with The Cannabis Risk Alliance, that cannabis is often portrayed as a relatively harmless drug, in comparison to other substances such as heroin, amphetamines and cocaine, however, this perception can sometimes lead to an underestimation of the serious consequences of using cannabis.”
Shine does not support the legalisation or decriminalisation of cannabis production and distribution for social and recreational use on the grounds that there may be significant mental, physical and social harm to specific vulnerable groups of people in the population.
Shine does support The Cannabis Risk Alliance in calling on the Government to “initiate an urgent and unbiased examination of the evidence about cannabis use and cannabis-related health harms in Ireland and a comprehensive public education campaign.”
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