New Research Shows Europe Divided on Cannabis Regulation

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27th June 2014 16:55 - Pharmaceutical

According to a new European survey, around 60% of young people living in Ireland feel that the sale of cannabis should be regulated.

The European Commission poll, conducted with 13,000 15-24 year olds in 28 European member states, suggested that 56% of young people aged 15-24 in Ireland were in favour of the market for cannabis being regulated – a large minority (43%), however,  did feel it should remain illegal. The Irish results represent an almost direct reversal of the European average, where 45% said it should be regulated with 53% saying it should be banned.

Ireland and Italy had the joint second highest proportion of people in favour of regulation, with the Czech Republic well ahead with almost three quarters (71%) supporting a regulated market for cannabis. In Britain, 46% favoured regulation – a similar proportion to the EU as a whole.

The figures for Ireland come from a sample of 500 young people, and the following results stand out (figures in square brackets represent the EU average):

  • Proportion who had taken cannabis: 42% [31%]
  • Proportion who had used cannabis in the last 30 days: 16% [7%]
  • Proportion smoking cannabis in the last year: 12% [10%]
  • Proportion who had taken it, but over a year ago: 14% [14%]

The rate for the number of people who had taken cannabis in the last thirty days was higher in Ireland than in any of the other countries involved in the study. France and Slovenia both polled results of 13%, with Britain returning a figure of less than one in ten (8%).

Irish respondents were also more likely to describe the process of acquiring cannabis as ‘easy’ – with almost three quarters (72%) describing the process in this way compared to 58% across Europe as a whole. This pattern was also mirrored in terms of other drugs – with almost half (48%) describing it as being easy to get hold of ecstasy (EU average 23%), and more than a third (36%) feeling that it was simple to acquire cocaine (EU average 25%).

This research comes in the wake of several calls for a rational and calm debate about the problem of drug abuse and recreational drug use. Many commentators have observed that punishment of drug users is ineffective, and several States in North America have opted to de-criminalise drug use, with some legalising the substances and collecting tax on their trade.

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