Ireland: New cannabis caution scheme sees drop in numbers charged for possession

The Irish Times reports

The number of people who were charged or issued with a summons in relation to the possession of drugs fell sharply in 2021 after the introduction of a scheme allowing for cannabis possession to be dealt with by way of a caution.

The fall by almost half in the number of people being brought to court for cannabis possession comes against an international trend towards legalisation, but also warnings from the psychiatric profession as to the harmful effects of the drug.

Figures released by the Garda Press Office show that, up to December 14th, 5,957 people were issued with a summons or charged in relation to the possession of drugs for their own use (simple possession). This compares with 11,127 in 2020, and 9,923 the year before that.

The sharp decline is due to the expansion in December 2020 of the Adult Cautioning Scheme to cover section 3 of the Misuse of Drugs Act, which relates to simple possession of an illegal drug. The expansion only applied to the simple possession of cannabis or cannabis resin.

The cautioning scheme, which is operated by An Garda Síochána along with the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, was expanded in relation to possession of cannabis for your own use, as well as trespass, casual trading without a licence, and laws to do with access to certain events.