GPs warn against legalizing cannabis ahead of Citizens’ Assembly vote
‘Cannabis is a dangerous drug and a serious public health concern,’ says ICGP, as assembly meets to consider decriminalization.
GPs have highlighted the negative impacts of legalising cannabis in advance of a vote on the wider issue this weekend at the Citizens’ Assembly on Drugs.
“Drug use has profound and lasting adverse effects on individuals, families, communities and our wider society,” the Irish College of General Practitioners (ICGP) said, as the debate on drugs liberalisation reaches an important juncture.
“While evidence indicates marijuana and cannabinoids may have potential therapeutic benefits, there are notable public health and health impacts associated with its use,” the group said in a statement issued by its clinical director Dr Diarmuid Quinlan.
“Cannabis is a dangerous drug and a serious public health concern,” according to the statement. “The ICGP discourages cannabis use, especially in high-risk populations such as youth, those with a personal or family history of mental disorder, pregnant women and women who are breastfeeding.”
The family doctors’ group said the HSE and Department of Health should improve surveillance efforts to ensure data is available on the short- and long-term health effects of cannabis, “especially emergency department visits and hospitalisations, impaired driving, workplace impairment and worker-related injury and safety, and prevalence of psychiatric and addictive disorders, including cannabis use disorder”.
It also called for stronger public health messaging on the adverse health effects of cannabis and cannabinoid inhalation and ingestion, “with an emphasis on reducing initiation and frequency of cannabis use among adolescents, especially high-potency products; use among women who are pregnant or contemplating pregnancy; and avoiding cannabis-impaired driving”.
The group expressed support for Government plans to refer people found in possession of drugs for personal use for health assessment, provided this is adequately resourced.
It also said there should be “public-health based strategies, rather than incarceration” for people caught with small quantities of cannabis for personal use.
The statement was developed after a motion on the issue was passed at the ICGP AGM last May.
The Citizens’ Assembly holds its sixth meeting on drug use this weekend, when members will vote on a range of proposals. Members are expected to favour some liberalisation of existing laws. The assembly will then compile a report for Government on proposals for change.