Figures released by An Garda Síochána, the Republic of Ireland’s national police force show prosecutions for possession of cannabis to be down by nearly 50% in the year December 2020 to December 2021. In 2020 figures showed there were 11,127 prosecutions in Ireland for the charge of possession of cannabis, while prosecutions have dropped to 5,957 in 2021.
The Garda attributed the dramatic drop in possession prosecutions to the inclusion of the charge of ‘simple possession of cannabis and cannabis resin only’ to the Adult Cautioning Scheme in December 2020. The inclusion of this offence to the scheme offered officials an alternative to prosecution for those arrested on suspicion of simple possession.
The Adult Cautioning Scheme was originally brought into effect in February 2006 and was designed to enable a caution to be issued to offenders where the prosecution of the offence would not be in the public’s interest. People issued with Adult Cautions do not have to disclose the offence to potential employers etc.
The newly released figures also reveal that prosecutions for supplying cannabis also fell significantly from 1,968 in 2020 to 1,283 in 2021, which is a drop of over 25%. Cultivation of cannabis (and the opium poppy) prosecutions increased from 197 in 2020 to 2019 to 310 in 2020. Prosecutions for importation and exportation of cannabis are rare, with 16 in 2020 and only 10 in 2021.
In 2019 The Health Research Board, an Irish governmental agency, published results of a general population survey with 7005 participants entitled Cannabis Use in Ireland. The published results of the survey show that 6.5% of the participants used cannabis in the last year, with 19.7% of those cannabis users considered by the agency to be dependent, and 30.3% considered to be abusive users of cannabis.