As cannabis legalization efforts continue to gain momentum on the European continent, smaller reforms are also taking hold.
Cannabis decriminalization is one such reform, and thankfully, more European nations are enacting cannabis decriminalization policies.
Decriminalization may not be as good as outright legalization, but it’s better than subjecting people to jail time.
Ireland is one country in Europe that has decriminalized cannabis in some instances. According to new data, it’s a policy that appears to be working.
Prosecutions Reduced Dramatically
Under current law, if someone is caught with a personal amount of cannabis in Ireland and there is no indication of illegal sales, the person can receive a fine of 1,000 euros instead of jail time.
According to prosecution data from Ireland, 11,127 people were prosecuted for cannabis offenses in 2020.
In 2021 that figure dropped to 5,957 prosecutions. Unfortunately, prosecutions for cultivation increased from 2019 to 2020 (the most recent data available).
Prosecutions for distributing cannabis in Ireland fell from 1,968 cases in 2020 to 1,283 cases in 2021.
A Stepping Stone Towards Legalization
The data out of Ireland as it pertains to personal possession is great news. With that being said, the situation could obviously be improved.
Until the number of prosecutions goes all the way down to zero, there will still be work to do for cannabis advocates and activists in Ireland.
Malta recently passed an adult-use legalization measure, and Germany and Luxembourg are expected to do the same in the near future. Italy will likely be voting on a legalization measure this year.
The Netherlands and Switzerland recently launched adult-use legalization pilot programs that include legal cannabis cultivation and sales in certain jurisdictions.
Hopefully, that all encourages Ireland to move beyond decriminalization towards full legalization. It’s good public policy for cannabis consumers as well as for taxpayers.