Pubdate:  Tue, 10 Feb 1998
Source:   Examiner, The (Ireland)


It was with a certain amount of misgiving that I read of the recent
cannabis seizures by gardai in counties Cork and Tipperary. Comments Det
Chief Supt Kevin Carty that he 'objects strongly' to people calling for
cannabis to be decriminalised, and that their campaign is based on a 'lot
of empty rhetoric' without any factual evidence to back it up, are hardly

I remind Det Chief Supt Kevin Carty that we live in a democracy, and so
have the right to call for changes to any law which we may feel to be
unjust, unworkable, or likely to lead to the prosecution of people for
'victimless' crimes, all of which I consider to be caused by the present
law which criminalises cannabis.

I am dismayed to see someone in Mr Carty's position still insisting that
cannabis is a 'gateway' drug.

It is a fact that cannabis is not a gateway drug to addiction to other
substances. Unfortunately, no matter how many times they are presented with
the evidence, the likes of Mr Carty simply refuse to accept this fact. I
will not waste readers' time by once again listing all the reports that
state that cannabis does not lead on to other drugs.

But what really worries me about the recent high profile seizures, is that
the seizures themselves may lead to our young people becoming addicted to
harder drugs. Due to its bulky nature, and the fact that it has a
distinctive odour, cannabis is by far the easiest of the currently illegal
drugs to detect. Heroin, on the other hand, is very compact, virtually
odourless, and therefore very difficult to detect. And the profit margins
on it are, in fact, far higher than those on cannabis.

If these cannabis seizures continue, and the supply is disrupted, then the
current users, when they approach their suppliers, may well be told that
there is no cannabis available, and perhaps be offered far more dangerous
substances, like heroin, instead.

Indeed, we could be sowing the seeds for a new epidemic of heroin addiction.

If cannabis were to be legalised, garda time and resources could be freed
for targeting the suppliers of the really dangerous drugs. More
importantly, it would separate the market between cannabis and other,
harmful drugs.

As Mr Carty himself points out, young people like to experiment. This is a
fact of life, which we need to accept and face up to.

In a weekend seminar at TCD last November, Prof Parker, an academic social
worker and director of social policy for the management of social problems
at the University of Manchester, stated that cannabis is actually saving
the lives of young people who wish to experiment. Advocating the
de-criminalisation of cannabis, he said that by being readily available to
"risk-taking" adolescents, cannabis had reduced the highly dangerous use of
solvents and gases, and that related deaths (in the UK) had dropped from
about 180 a year to about 50.

Personally, I would far sooner listen to the research findings of the likes
of Prof Parker, than to the empty rhetoric of Det Chief Supt Kevin Carty,
and his ilk.

Of course, I suppose it would be unfair of me to suggest that the eagerness
of the Gardai to call a press conference and to be photographed in front of
all this seized cannabis, may have more to do with personal advancement and
future Garda funding, than with any real concern about the welfare of our

Martin Cooke,
Co Leitrim.