Irish Health Minister Stephen Donnelly smoked cannabis in the past and is open to legalisation

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Health Minister Stephen Donnelly says he stands by a 2017 interview in which he admitted to smoking cannabis and visiting a strip club.

The Fianna Fail TD told Hot Press magazine he had tried marijuana – and was open to the idea of making it legal.

Minister Donnelly, 44, also hinted at experimenting with other substances during a Q&A interview given after he left the Social Democrats before joining Fianna Fail.

When asked if he’d ever tried any other drugs Minister Donnelly replied: “I have many years ago. I have but that’s all the detail I’m going to go into.”

Pressed for an answer as to whether he had ever taken cocaine, he said: “I’m just not going to go down any of those lines if that’s OK.”

 

The new minister for health was a surprise appointment for some political commentators since he has never held any other political office.

He will assume responsibility for steering the State through the greatest health crisis in its history and managing an annual budget in excess of €20billion.

Asked about the Hot Press article a spokeswoman for the Department of Health told the Irish Sunday Mirror yesterday: “Minister Donnelly stands by his interview.”

Three years ago he said: “I’d like to find a way to decriminalise small quantities of weed.

“If a grown adult wants to grow a herb and then smoke it, and there are no negative consequences for other people, then they should be allowed to do that.

“However, any such approach would have to be done in the context of medical research showing that smoking weed as a minor can lead to longer-term mental health challenges.

“It would also need to be done mindful of ‘drug tourism’ – a la Amsterdam – which is not something we want here.”

Asked about other drugs, Mr Donnelly added: “I’ve mixed views. If you’re doing something that’s not harming anybody else, it’s hard to see a legitimate role for the State in prosecuting you for it. So, it’s complicated.

“But you do see young fellas coked up in bars, causing fights and intimidating people… it’s highly addictive and destroys lives.”

The Wicklow TD, who is a black belt in Taekwando, said he was “broadly supportive” of injection centres.

He added: “I’d like to see us looking at addiction not as a criminal issue but as a healthcare issue. What are the causes of addiction?

The UCD graduate, who grew up in Dundrum, South Dublin, admitted visiting a strip club but said he was not keen on getting a lap dance.

Minister Donnelly said: “I found it a deeply uncomfortable experience. I didn’t like the vibe."

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