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MINISTER GOES POTTY; I'm not in favour of legalising cannabis but NO ONE should be put in jail for smoking it.

Byline: NICOLA TALLANT

THE minister responsible for the nation's fight against drug abuse has said cannabis use should not carry a jail sentence.

Eoin Ryan TD, who admitted once smoking the drug himself, instead believes battling ecstasy and heroin should be a higher priority.

The head of the National Drug Strategy Team said the so-called dance drug is "opening the door to heroin use".

And he told Hot Press Magazine: "If you are asking if people should go to prison for cannabis use, the answer is 'no'.

"I'd definitely have more concerns about ecstasy and the problems it's bringing.

"We consulted other countries on their drugs strategy and one of their concerns is the whole area of poly-drug use.

"That's one drug leading on to another but that said I don't believe cannabis is a gateway drug."

Minister Ryan admitted less than 24 hours into his new role in January last year that he had smoked dope.

The 47-year-old minister said then: "I want to let it be known that as a teenager over 20 years ago - like a lot of other students at the time - I smoked cannabis a couple of times."

Minister Ryan said, however, that he's still not in favour of decriminalising or legalising the drug.

And he warned there are major concerns over the drug's effect on health.

He said: "As far as cannabis is concerned, the jury is out. A lot of people put in the argument that we should legalise it.

"But the facts are - and I've read a lot about this since I got the job - there's been very little decent research done on cannabis since the late 1970s.

"It's a carcinogenic, much more so than tobacco.

"There are about 400 chemical compounds and 60 different cannibanoids within the plant.

"We don't know what the long-term effects of them are.

"That has to be addressed before anybody can responsibly say 'yes, we should legalise it'."

The minister pointed to the current spate of law suits being taken against tobacco firms as a reason to avoid legalisation.

He said: "Look at all the cases going on about tobacco.

"In 20 years time do we want a whole lot of cases about the side effects of cannabis?

"There are people arguing that we're wasting money going after people with cannabis.

"I've said publicly before that heroin is the one drug that's causing most of the problems to individuals, communities and families.

"I believe that that should be our main target."

The minister also said he did not agree with the "soft-drug" tag which is given to cannabis.

He said: "If you're to look at the facts, cannabis doesn't seem to have the proven downside effects, at this stage, of a lot of other drugs.

"But we don't know. We are dealing in something on which we don't have quantitative research.

"That's why we set up the National Advisory Committee - to get proper research done."

He added: "Until somebody comes in and proves that cannabis is not dangerous, then I can't see us taking the step of legalising it.

"And I don't believe that research has been done. We certainly can't find it.

"Anything I read comes back to the same thing, which is that we're dealing with a substance that we honestly don't know what the long-term effects are."

And the Fianna Fail frontbencher warned alcohol remains one of the biggest dangers to young people.

He said: "Alcohol is definitely a drug and one that's caused a lot of problems in Ireland.

"I think we're definitely going to have to change and the alcohol industry are going to have to become far more responsible."

Minister Ryan also said he believed drinks companies should not be allowed to sponsor major sporting events.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for the Garda refused to comment on the content of Mr Ryan's interview but said: "We are here to implement the law.

"We enforce it and that's our job. As long as it is there we will enforce it. If the laws change, so does our job."

SUPER-STRENGTH ECSTASY KILLED LORNA: SEE PAGE 16

CAPTION(S):

THREAT: Ecstasy can often lead many users on to harder drugs; DEADLY: Ryan says stamping out heroin is a huge priority
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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jul 13, 2001
Words:706
Previous Article:She had a look of sheer fright. She was foaming at the mouth. Her eyes rolled and her face was blazing red; E GIRL'S FINAL MOMENTS.
Next Article:Famous people who liked a joint (apart from Eoin Ryan).


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