Seanad Éireann - Volume 86 - 05 May, 1977
Misuse of Drugs Bill, 1973: Second Stage (Resumed).
Question again proposed: “That the Bill be now read a Second Time.”
Dr. West Dr. West
Dr. West: I should like to stress again that I welcome the spirit behind this Bill. It seems to me to have two main themes: the rehabilitation of young offenders, addicts, treating them in a lenient way with a view to getting  an emphasis on the medical, sociological and psychological rather than the penal side, and then heavier penalties for the drug pushers. I could not agree more.
Perhaps the Minister, when he replies, would say something more about a matter which I feel is very important —I think it is covered in section 28 but I am not sure—that is, the compulsory treatment for young offenders who are addicts. For a young offender, an addict, who perhaps has not got very far into the drug scene it is important that we should insist that, if he faces a conviction, treatment can be compulsory, that he can be compulsorily referred to the proper medical services for treatment. That is the emphasis we need.
I should like to mention two cases which I have come up against in my period as Junior Dean in Trinity College having to deal with the problems of discipline and the person upon whom this drug problem impinges. In that capacity I should like totally to contradict the sentiments expressed on the Second Stage debate in the Lower House by a Fine Gael Deputy who alleged that Trinity College was the centre of the Irish drug scene. I can assure him that it is not. It would be quite untrue to say that we, like every other educational institutions, particularly third-level institutions, did not have our problems and that problems are not going to arise from time to time. I wrote to the Deputy concerned, who is a medical man—it was a considerable time ago he made these allegations—and sometime later he verbally retracted to me everything he had said. He gave me a full and very sufficient apology. But there it was. There were headlines in the evening papers. It did not do him or anybody else any good to make wild allegations of that type. All I asked him for was proof of his allegations and, of course, he could not give it to me.
That is not to say we have not had problems. Of course, we have had problems and, of course, we must be vigilant. Of course, we must be prepared for a situation in which the incidence of drug-taking increases. As I  said last evening, it is at a particularly low ebb compared with the last five or six years. I am delighted about this. I have had one very minor case in the last 18 months or so. But we have got to be prepared and I am glad to see this Bill going some way along the road to updating our thinking about treatment and penalties, particularly of the young offenders.
The two cases I should like to mention to the Minister both involved students. The first one was a situation in which I was involved. There was a student who was not one of my students—he was not a Trinity College student—but who did appear to be a drug addict. He collapsed in very suspicious circumstances inside Trinity College. An ambulance was called. He was taken to the nearest hospital, the hospital on call for emergencies at the time, and he had recovered sufficiently in the ambulance to walk out. He did not allow himself to be treated at all when he got to the hospital. That must be a citizen's right. It seems to be a problem when somebody who seemed on the point of death a half an hour before, at least to those who picked him up when he collapsed, could be taken off to hospital and could walk out refusing treatment. We have to protect the citizen's right to refuse medical treatment, but it is a problem one has to face. The situation in which the collapse occurred was so suspicious that I was absolutely certain from the background information I had that this man was an addict involved with a particular group of drug takers and pushers. Yet he was able to walk out of the hospital, having been brought there by ambulance, without even being checked. I do not know if there is any legal remedy for this, but it seems to be an undesirable situation.
The second case I would like to bring to the Minister's attention also involves the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs. In my period of four years as Junior Dean of TCD in charge of discipline I have had one very serious case of a student who had a conviction for possession of hard drugs. He faced very serious charges of possession and selling rather a large quantity of drugs. For some reason the case  had not come off. However, I had every reason to believe that he was not only an addict but a pedlar making a great deal of money exploiting his fellow students in the most reprehensible way. The evidence I had might not have stood up in court. But, as Junior Dean of TCD, I do not have to wait for legal evidence; I have got to act; it is up to me. I imposed very severe restrictions on this gentleman's movements around the college. I said he could come in one day, go to the library, study for his final examinations, have a meal in the dining hall, then leave. He could not go anywhere else. He was not to go into any students' rooms; he had been thrown out of rooms already. He was not to go into the catering areas except at one set time of day when he was to have a meal and get out. He was not to go into any of the general common rooms. That was the most I could do without actually getting him fired out of the college. He was coming up to his finals. I felt: let him finish his examinations and get out. Then, from there on we would see that he did not come in again. As a matter of fact he went abroad.
Of course I faced a barrage of criticism from the students' representatives on the board—I had to go to the board of the college—that I was victimising a student. I said “My job is to protect 3,999 students. If I have to put screws on one to protect the others, then I will stand over it”. Fortunately, I got full backing and the penalties were imposed. This gentleman, who knew the law fairly well, came up and threatened me. I said “I am the wrong man to threaten. That just makes me absolutely certain that what I have done is absolutely right. If you get the big charge against your name cleared and you are proved innocent—you have already got a conviction—then I will be prepared to review my penalties”. Anyway, nothing happened. I told him that if he could get a letter from the Drug Squad saying that in their opinion he was a reformed character —they do a very good job and the university authorities generally keep in touch with them—that would do  me. I told him “If you get a letter from the Drug Squad saying you are not involved, you are completely out of the drug scene, I will accept that and will review the position accordingly”. I did not get that either.
Time passed and about six months later I was at home at Christmas watching RTE—the only time I ever see anything like that. I was almost asleep in my chair and saw it almost by accident—I would certainly have turned off this particular film but it stayed on rather longer than one wanted. It was a film made by RTE. I think the title was “The Golden Triangle”. It was about Vietnam, Cambodia and the triangle in that part of the Far East where opium is grown in very large quantities, where it is a huge commercial racket. It is very difficult for the authorities, even the Communists, to stop it because it has become such a racket. Everybody makes their living out of it. It is the main source of this particular drug for the rest of the world. Half the film was about the natives there growing it, then its refinement and the animal packs bringing it down to the market. The police were paid off and then the customs officials were paid off and it was sent around the world.
The other half of the film was of a party in a Dublin suburban house. I suddenly sat up when I saw my friend in the party. There he was larger than life, and he gave a complete demonstration on how you inject this stuff into your arm. RTE spent a great deal of time and effort in showing this. He showed how you heat the stuff on a spoon, melt it down, get out the hypodermic, put on whatever it is to get the veins up—and there he was injecting this stuff into his arm. Having dealt with this problem and having tried to combat it, I tried to ring the Director General of RTE. I was going to blow him off the far end of the line. I have never seen such an irresponsible thing as that in the media. A complete demonstration for people who might not know how and where to get this stuff. The whole theme was typical of what you get from the “druggies”— to be a big man you have to take dope. This fellow was showing how big and  smart he was and how he could do it in great detail. To my dismay six months later RTE showed this film in full again. I had the unpleasant experience of seeing this drug pedlar going through the whole business again.
We had a supposedly responsible television service giving that demonstration. One must ask what effect it would have on the people on the fringes of the drug scene? These are the people the doctors, the Minister for Health, people in my position and the officers in the Drug Squad are trying to get away from this nauseating practice. I hope the Minister passes on my comments to the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs and that he gets a few rockets sent around our television station. It was an absolutely disgraceful performance, thoroughly revolting— not because of what this fellow was doing to himself but because of the way he was broadcasting it to our young people. The theme of the film was: if you are going to be a big man this is what you have got to do to make it.
I want also to refer to the problem of cannabis. The Minister mentioned this. From my position, in which I am dealing with these problems, my way of approaching this would be to make cannabis more easily and legally available. The Minister's advisers thought about this solution. I got advice from the medics that, whereas some years ago the theory was that the long term effects of cannabis were nil, some disturbing evidence had come to light only recently that cannabis has disturbing long term effects. It seems that the situation is still pretty fairly balanced. There is no firm evidence one way or the other.
I have not got the latest up-to-date reports from the people who do the tests. My feeling is that it would be better—taking everything into account —to legalise cannabis. This might take a lot of pressure off people who are tempted to use the hard drugs. There is no question that those two drugs, which so many of us get a certain amount of enjoyment out of in the ordinary course of our lives, for example alcohol and tobacco, do have very serious long-term effects. There is no question about  that. I am sure the Minister would agree. His Department have been taking an active interest; they have been campaigning to warn people about the long-term effects of alcohol and tobacco. It is a question of how much you take and can you control yourself? It is clear that there are certain people who cannot control their alcohol intake if they once start and they have a very serious medical problem. There are also people for whom smoking means death 10 years earlier than perhaps otherwise.
I wonder if, on balance, there is any evidence that the long-term effects of cannabis are anything worse than the long-term effects of alcohol or tobacco. That is not to say that we should not be very much aware, that we should open the floodgates but I would like the Minister, over a period, to reconsider this. Certainly the Drug Squad have an enlightened view of this. They do not hound cannabis people, they do not allow it to increase. They know, as the situation stands at present the taking of cannabis—and this is where I would like to make the break —leads to the taking of hard drugs. That is precisely because cannabis is illegal. When one is 18 to 22 one gets a great kick out of doing things that are illegal just because they are illegal. I wonder if it would not help in the long term.
I should like to pay tribute to the drug squad. They do an excellent job. They have their fingers on the pulse. But, as I said yesterday evening, I have read some very disturbing articles in the international press that the instance of heroin smuggling in places like Paris, Amsterdam, Marseilles and Brussels is on the upsurge again and that Interpol—there is a special international drug squad which I am sure our people have got their lines hooked into—are having great trouble. They have special training courses. I think it is carried out either in the Netherlands or Germany for policemen who are dealing with the drug traffic which impinges on so many areas, not just the sociological/medical problems but there is the problem of customs surveillance. I wonder are our customs authorities alive to these possibilities?
 On one occasion I got a rude shock when I flew into Kennedy Airport, New York, about the beginning of September when all the American students were returning home from Europe. So many people had sleeping bags; every sleeping bag was slit right up. The customs authorities had lines, hundreds of yards long. It took about two and a half hours to get through the customs because they were so careful, and I certainly do not blame them. They were catching the stuff in quite large quantities, so their surveillance was certainly justified. I wonder what links there are between our Drug Squad and the customs authorities. I am sure there are some. Certainly it is something to think about. The authorities should consider, if they have not done so already, sending some of our policemen, or excise men, to learn about the European problem. It is only by being aware of these problems and seeing the special courses that are being given for policemen on the Continent who are dealing especially with drug problems that we can take the corrective measures in advance and that we can be alert to stop a flood of this stuff coming into the country. If it comes in it will ruin so many lives. I would like the Minister to say something about this and perhaps pass on this message to his colleagues.
My final point concerns the pharmacists and the storage of drugs. There was a spate of robberies some years ago of chemists' shops, when people were obviously after drugs. I have retained an article from The Cork Examiner of 9th October, 1972. The headline says “Drugs moved secretly to central depots”. I will quote the first paragraph:
Members of the Irish Pharmaceutical Society have secretly brought off a coup in the fight against drug abuse by moving all hard drugs out of their shops and into central depots...
The drug problem is something in which a large group of people are involved. The pharmacists, the police, the customs, the Minister for Health and his Department, the medical profession,  the people who are in charge of student discipline in the universities are all involved. It is the sort of thing about which we have all got to cooperate and work together. I am glad to see that the pharmacists did this five years ago. Perhaps, in his reply, the Minister would refer to the problem of storage of hard drugs throughout the country.
Mr. Daly Mr. Daly
Mr. Daly: I would like to draw the Minister's attention to the definition of cannabis in section 1 where it is said:
“cannabis” (except in “cannabis resin”) means the flowering or fruiting tops of any plant of the genus Cannabis from which the resin has not been extracted, by whatever name they may be designated;
Somebody who was in possession of this plant, subsequently taken to court and convicted, according to this section, may ask for the return of the leaves, stem and the rest of the plant. In fact, such person would be entitled to get back about 1½ lbs of cannabis out of every plant as the interpretation section stands at present. For that reason I would ask the Minister to examine this section.
The second point I should like to raise is in respect of somebody, particularly a very young person, who is convicted in his early years and reforms. I recommend that that conviction be removed after a period of five years because otherwise it is an injustice. For example, there will be certain jobs such a person cannot get. He could apply for a job in the State, be very highly qualified, but this conviction would disqualify him. Perhaps the Minister would re-examine this with a view to removal of such conviction after a given period of reform.
I should like to congratulate the Drug Squad on the very good job they are doing. The officers and staff are dedicated people, they are very humane and they are doing a first-class job.
Dr. Browne Dr. Browne
Dr. Browne: I hope I will not surprise the Minister unduly by congratulating him on the general tenor of  this Bill which is obviously needed and, I think, has been welcomed by most people.
I have not very much to say about it except, first of all, that I am a member of a profession who, I regret to say, are responsible for much of the drug abuse, if not most of the drug abuse, that goes on in our society. I do not have the sense, as a medical man, that I am the kind of person or the person qualified in a particular way to speak with absolute authority on the essential needs facing the Minister for Health in trying to deal with the question of drug abuse.
Drug abuse is as old as man and various attempts have been made and are being made the world over to deal with it in as many ways as there are countries, practically. Therefore, anybody who would attempt to lay down an absolutely definitive line as to the correct approach to drug control would be a very foolish person indeed. One can simply deal with the socio-cultural attitudes within the parameters of the socio-cultural attitudes of a society and then introduce a certain amount of one's own thinking on the matter, and after that hope for the best.
One of the good features of the production of this Bill has been the work of the Dáil Special Committee, which I suspect was of great help to the Minister. I read many of the reports of their meetings and although it is true that the Minister got a lot of conflicting advice, I do not see anything wrong with that. I am one of those people who like to hear every point of view and then, as is fairly well known, I come down on the point of view that I have myself and tend to hold to it. I see every virtue in the conflict of opinion which appears to have gone on in this drugs committee. In passing, I will say a certain tribute should be paid to the contribution of the shadow Minister for Health, Deputy Haughey, who appears to have introduced a very humane and civilised commentary and contribution throughout the discussions and appears to have worked very hard. Again, of course, the final credit must come to the Minister because he appears, when  he came to make up his mind, to have come down on the side of as humane an approach to this terribly distressing problem as one would like to see.
On the whole problem of drug abuse, I do not believe we in the medical profession are a group who should wish to be believed as having the final correct authoritative view on how best to deal with the problem. My own view, for what it is worth, is the rather simple one that in the use of drugs of any kind, whether it is nicotine, alcohol, cannabis, the hard drugs, heroin and the rest, the individual is simply responding to a situation of emotional distress and anxiety which he is attempting to cope with and that some of us are luckier than others. Some of us can cope with our problem by simply smoking a cigarette, a cigar or a pipe, if that is what we want. A cigarette smoker, I do not think, is one of the luckier ones—obviously he is a person who will suffer in the end, rather terribly in most cases.
There is the person at the other extreme, the cannabis smoker or the hard drug addict. Who is in rather a more serious position. These people, as far as I see, are simply people who are attempting to handle an emotional problem. I see only a difference of degree between the person who takes out a cigarette before making a speech, as many Senators may do outside, or the Deputies or many of us in politics who take a glass of whiskey, or whatever it is, and the unfortunate person who feels that the only solution to his emotional stress problem is to jump in the river or to take his life. It is a question of degree. The only matter which is important to me is that he is simply responding to a stress situation that he did not bring on himself —he did not choose to be like that. That is the kind of personality he has and that this is the way he responds to his stress problem—each of us in his own way, each with somewhat safer ways of dealing with our stress problems. All of us have varying degrees of emotional stress as a result of life experience.
My main theme in all this is that none of them is blameworthy. Each  one of us is a product of our environment or the emotional milieu in which we developed, the handling or mishandling we have had, the different lives, the happiness or unhappiness of marriage, children—all of the thousand and one problems which face humanity in society. Therefore, I tend not to look at the question of whether the person is a good person or a bad person. He is a good person because he solves his problem by smoking a cigar and a bad person because he solves his problems as Senator West said a few moments ago, as the boy showing how to “fix” with mainlining and so on.
These youngsters whom I had some dealings with in the past I always found very tragic and very sad people. I have yet to meet a happy alcoholic, a happy drug addict or a happy person who is out of control in relation to the drug he or she abuses. They are very pitiful people. Most of the people we admit to our wards in the psychiatric hospitals, I would say would be alcoholics and I have yet to meet a happy alcoholic. They are always full of guilt feelings. They have damaged their family relationships. They have upset their own lives. They have probably done damage in their jobs and so on. The last thing one should do is to blame or judge any of these people. One should not make a moral judgement in respect of any form of drug abuse. It would be silly to attempt to judge, say, a cigarette smoker. It would be unthinkable that we should go outside and look at one another and say “You are smoking a cigarette. You are a bad person. You should go to a drug addiction centre and get help from the medical profession.”
I am glad the Minister resisted the very extravagant and punitive advice which at least one medical member of the Special Committee wanted to impose on him—that these people should be locked up, punished and treated harshly and with a lack of humanity in order to educate them into what is the right way of life. We are all intolerant of other people's weaknesses in this regard. Anybody who has any  dealings with it will be less critical. The Christian saying, “He amongst you who is without sin let him cast the first stone”, should be borne in mind when dealing with anybody who acts in an abhorrent way, whether it is the so-called criminal, drug addict or even the pusher. If all of these people are acting in an abhorrent way there must be some explanation for it and I would prefer to look for the explanation in their life histories and situation: the child growing up in a loveless atmosphere, the rejected child and so on. All of these become the people who reject the ordinary conventions and standards of society but they are doing it because society was harsh with them and they are attempting in their own pitiful way to get their own back.
At the same time, the Minister is faced with the reality that the changes in regard to drug choice for use among people have a certain relevance to the sociological and environmental factors as distinct from individual motives. The Minister appears to have taken the view that it is not a simple question of somebody being bad and attempting to damage himself or society by taking drugs. At the same time he has to bear in mind that environmental and cultural factors tend to determine the pattern of drug abuse in society.
The most classical example of this is the very permissive attitude we have towards alcohol. It is more than permissive, it is positively compulsive. If one takes the advertising, the attraction of the lounges, the music and the general incentive to drink, how in heaven's name are alcoholics meant to desist from drink once they leave the hospital atmosphere? In a society such as ours where there is a continuous incentive and exhortation on the television, newspapers and radio to drink, it must form a considerable part of the reason why we have such frighteningly high alcohol levels. I am sure there are other reasons involved, but in our society there is virtually no serious attempt to counter the attractive sales propaganda of the beer barons.
One of the penalties we pay is that we have a very high incidence of alcoholism, probably one of the highest in the civilised world. This finding is  the result of a World Health Organisation committee report. If one needs proof, it is clear from the sociocultural milieu in which a youngster goes into a pub for a lemonade with his parents and sees people in various degrees and stages of alcoholism or drunkenness. He quite readily and easily slips into the habit of going into a pub. Then the drinking develops, presumably because of the individual emotional needs of that person, either controlled or uncontrolled, abused or properly used—alcohol can help people if taken in moderation. It is the question of the abuse of drugs which we should bear in mind. This applies also to cannabis.
The question of cultural attitudes in a society are important determinants and this is where the Minister for Health comes in. He has to try to draw together all our stances on these questions—should we encourage drinking even though it causes broken homes, people in hospitals, and loss of efficiency in industry? I am surprised he has not made any attempt to deal with alcohol abuse in our society. Where such a great human problem is created by the abuse of alcohol the Minister should at least have attempted in this Bill to draw people's attention to the need for some kind of control.
The same is true for cigarette smoking. It was either in 1954 or 1957 I first drew attention in the Dáil to the question of cigarette smoking. We have made very little progress since then. In most other societies a lot of progress has been made in relation to the education of people about the dangers of cigarette smoking. I am sorry the Minister has not taken up this question and has not made any serious effort in his Department to reduce advertising in relation to nicotine on which thousands of people are dependent. The consequences of it are unfortunate—heart disease, coronaries, chest disease, bronchitis, and so on, and the nearly universally fatal condition of lung cancer.
It is a peculiar lacuna in our social attitudes that we can tolerate these figures which have been produced now without any debate. About 20 years ago when I first talked about cigarette smoking, I think three of us had a  motion in the Dáil and half a dozen Deputies supported it at that time. In spite of the knowledge we now have, without any doubt, about the terrible dangers of cigarette smoking, we still have the unbridled continuous advertising and the promotion of the cigarette smoking habit and the failure of the Minister to make his programme anything like as powerful as the tobacco company programmes are. The notice on the packets is positively misleading in so far as it talks about a health warning. It should be a disease warning. It was a dishonest compromise by, I think, not the present Minister but possibly his predecessor, which he should not have continued to tolerate. It should be made quite clear that cigarette smoking will likely cause the most dreadful disease one could imagine, and that is, the suffocating final consequence of lung cancer.
I very much regret that these things have not been dealt with. There is no serious question of trying to bring in controls of the abuse of alcohol, the abuse of nicotine, which we all know are infinitely greater in their effect and influence and disease cost results to our society than is cannabis smoking or heroin or cocaine or any of the other drugs. It is a curious lacuna in our thinking that we can latch on to something in a positively hysterical way which is a relatively minor problem, and going through the throes of anger and punitive attitudes from the bench one listens to from time to time, while at the same time we have enormous sums of money being made not only by the tobacco barons but also by the Government out of the trade in both tobacco and alcohol.
I am not suggesting we should have prohibition on either tobacco or alcohol, because I know it could not work. It has been tried and it has failed. But there could be a much greater measure of disincentive to the dreadful trade in alcohol. Practically every second day I meet somebody in a total stupor, in tragic trouble with his family, his friends, his life and job and so on because of alcohol abuse of one kind or another. We saw Nixon on television the other day with his  lung cancer. We read about those notable people all the time, and of course our cancer hospitals are burying unfortunate products of the nicotine trade all the time. No serious effort is being made to deal with these two great examples of drug abuse.
In our disproportionately excessive interest in the sort of drugs provided for in the Bill rather than really dangerous drugs like alcohol and nicotine, we overlook that most of these drugs which are mentioned here, cannabis and so on, are drugs of the young people, that we are attempting to enforce an adult view of society. It always amuses me when I hear anybody lecturing a young drug abuser, either a psychiatrist, a judge or a politician, particularly when quite frequently he is holding a cigarette in his hand and on his way out has a sharp shot of whiskey, or whatever, after he has finished his particular session. This is the lacuna—that we do not see that what is permissible and acceptable for us is quite different where these young people are concerned. These young people, as I have often said about the Provos, and I am not going to discuss them, are the products of our culture, they are the products of our educational system, of our attitudes. I believe a lot of the anxiety which leads to drug abuse comes from the stress of the youngster in our very punitive society —fear in the school, fear in the home, fear of going to hell and fear of God. All this can be the pervasive element of fear as a nexus in human relations, the child-adult relationship in our society which is a contributing factor to the very high incidence of the psychiatric cases in our hospitals, neurotics and so on.
Instead of looking at the socio-cultural attitudes which created the young person with the need for cannabis, heroin, cocaine or anything else, we simply advise that the child or youngster should be punished, that he should be lectured and put away. I suppose we must be dealing with our own guilt feelings because we know we have failed the child, we have produced what is called a difficult child  that the parents can no longer handle and hand over to us. One feels slightly bitter at times when one gets a couple of parents bringing in an unmanageable child using drugs or living his own way and then telling you to put it all right after they have had 20 or 23 or 24 years making a mess of the child in the first instance.
I am glad that the Minister has not gone overboard in a punitive answer to all this. In relation to the penalties, he has done his best to try to eliminate the mailed fist until a very last resort situation. In relation to the socio-cultural attitude, these are the deterrents and the Minister has to bear them in mind. Similarly, in the cultural attitudes in the Middle and Far East in relation to cannibis and the smoking of hash—I was interested listening to Senator West and the relief in his voice when he talked about the man who had at last gone abroad —it seems they can handle it all right and have got rid of their problem. Abroad the Senator would probably find himself in the Middle or Far East where he would be perfectly in his rights to smoke hash—it would not be drug abuse at all.
Dr. West Dr. West
Dr. West: If it was only hash I would not have need to worry.
Dr. Browne Dr. Browne
Dr. Browne: I was not being critical but we tend to take this view. We seem to ignore the fact that much of our morality is relatively whimsical, culturally determined. As I have often said here before, things like monogamy, polygamy and polyandry are all permissible in different cultures but we are horrified at the thought of a man having seven wives or a wife having seven husbands and so on. There are cultures in which this is permissible and nobody thinks it strange. Therefore, if Colonel Gadaffi arrived in Dublin he would be horrified, as a strict Moslem, to see all the pubs around and the drink flowing. That is one of the things many of the Irish are discovering in North Africa, the difficulty of getting drink in strict Moslem society. They will probably have to try hash to cope with whatever problems they might have. It is the whimsical nature of all these  things, that prevents me getting angry with practically anything I see amongst human beings because either historically, geographically, culturally or in economic terms the up-the-line and the down-the-line were permissible and are all so changeable. I was going to say I am intolerant of them but that would be dogmatic too, but I find it very difficult to understand their rationalisation of their position.
In this whole question of human attitudes towards drugs, alcohol, nicotine or sexuality, for instance, anybody who has read the fascinating book Coming of Age in Samoa by Margaret Meade, a fine anthropologist, would find our sex attitude, particularly in our society, a very repressive one; put into proper perspective, the complete absence of any fixed set of values at all, heterosexual, homosexual, marriage or incest. In trying to assess the merits of one's own attitude to these things, one should be very humble and diffident and try to avoid being categorical.
I would be very slow to accept any categorical statements, particularly from the medical profession, including myself—the House may have noticed that I have tried to avoid being categoric. Enormous amounts of the drugs given out in our various clinics, particularly our psychiatric clinics, end up in our city sewers. We have also the record of our attitude to thalidomide and the disastrous consequences of our irresponsible use of that drug and recently, another drug intended for heart sufferers has been found to be an extremely dangerous drug and is no longer used. We are by no means infallible. Worst of all is our abuse of the barbiturates which are possibly the most dangerous drug of those mentioned in the Bill. Their effects are generally recognised now but the medical profession have been prescribing them lavishly for many years. I do not know to what extent the Minister has received help from the medical profession in Ireland in regard to self-control. He does not appear to be controlling the barbiturates in this Bill unless I am mistaken. Has he got any undertaking from them to exercise some supervision and self-control over  the use of barbiturates? The most important feature of the barbiturates is their accumulative effect. It is unlike, say, cannabis where the person keeps on taking it and has the delightful effects of perceptions and so on, and does not need any more than that particular drug. In fact, there is little or no physical addiction anyway although he might have a physical addiction to it. However, I do not think there is any certain evidence—Senator West made the point honestly—as to the consequences of taking cannabis for long periods. Of course, in the whole of the Middle East, the Far East and China it has been a universal practice for thousands of years. Unless taken in gross excess, it is not likely to be permanently damaging anymore than alcohol is. The barbiturates are not like that. They are extremely dangerous drugs. They have these various effects from staggering around like a drunken man up to a serious psychotic collapse.
I know it is not a simple question because the medical profession is not the easiest one to handle, it is very authoritarian and opinionated and sure of itself. In spite of all the evidence over the years, the number of times we have done the wrong things for the best of good reasons, we never seem to self-educate ourselves because in each generation we are always certain we are right on an issue until some terrible disaster, like thalidomide, crops up and demonstrates so clearly that we are not right. The Minister, has the problem of dealing with the medical profession, which is very difficult to lecture to. Obviously, he cannot say: “You are all doing the wrong thing and you must stop”, but there must be some way in which he could forewarn them that the use of barbiturates, because of the marvellous changes which have taken place in the pharmacopolia and pharmaceutical preparations generally, should be phased out over a period and some sort of joint scheme between the medical profession and the Department of Health should be worked out whereby movement in that direction is attempted. Some of the older medical practitioners cannot and will not change but an attempt should be made to see that the younger practitioners  are discouraged from prescribing barbiturates. Those are three very important defects in the Bill, in relation to alcohol, nicotine and barbiturates, unless the Minister has some special arrangement of which I am unaware.
I find it very difficult to take the cannabis problem seriously. It is rather like my attitude to alcohol and nicotine, cigars and tobacco. We, in the profession, think pipe smoking is reasonably permissible as opposed to cigarette smoking. I imagine that cannabis is in much the same category. One of the major problems facing the Minister is the fact that all the evidence is so diverse that it practically cancels itself out because of its totally conflicting nature. On the other hand, it is useful to know that there is no certain evidence to say that the moderate use of cannabis is necessarily very damaging.
To a certain extent, attempting to answer Senator West's queries about the treatment of drug abuse, it is a very complicated thing. In relation to alcohol it is generally found that the important aspect is the relationship between the therapist and the person looking for help. Unless this relationship is a willing one it is very difficult to maintain. One dislikes seeing anybody coming in on a temporary basis into a place. They are committed and they are one's legal responsibility and one must do something for them. They know who is responsible for keeping them there, and the gaoler and criminal relationship are established at once. I fought this many years ago in a Health Bill in 1946 on the same question of attempting forcibly to detain people suffering from tuberculosis. It was a disastrous Bill introduced by Dr. Ward and was thrown out eventually.
There are times, when somebody is going to jump in a river, when they obviously have to be brought in, but ideally one has to try to have a voluntary relationship between the therapist and the individual. The sad truth is that unless the person wants to get control of himself there is very little one can do. There is no specific drug that can be given. There are those  terrible pills which after being taken the person collapses and they are infamous. The simple answer for the person is that they do not take that particular drug.
The same is true of the young drug addict. It is practically impossible to get a youngster who does not wish to get off drugs to get him to give them up by ordinary means. I am rather worried about long term incarceration in a drug centre. It is the emotional problem that is the important one to deal with and the drug addiction is merely a manifestation of the problem. What one is faced with is attempting to deal with the emotional problem. If that is a totally intractable one and the person cannot submit to the stress of having that problem dealt with, then one will not be able to deal with the drug problem itself.
I am rather apprehensive about ever giving powers to my profession for the prolonged detention of patients in an institution. We should be monitored. There is the great danger of institutionalisation. If a patient is detained in any institution, be it a psychiatric hospital or a prison—that was one of the dangers in relation to the Great Train Robbers—there is the great danger of that person becoming a cabbage, of not ever wanting to come out. If a medical practitioner has the right to incarcerate a patient until he is satisfied that that person should be discharged—I hope to raise this matter on the Mental Treatment Act—it is a power that can be abused. Let us take, for example, a suicide, an alcoholic or a drug addict. The court may ask a medical practitioner “Do you think he will take any more drugs?”. It is practically impossible to say with any authority. If one is a slightly fearful person who does not want to be shown to be wrong, to have made a misdiagnosis, one tends to say “I will keep him another three months”. All the time the person is being deprived in an arbitrary way of his or her personal freedom. That is something we would all greatly deprecate. If there is any question of establishing a drug addiction unit somebody else should assist the courts in attempting to monitor the position of the person detained in one of these places.
 One of the difficulties in mental hospitals it that when the doors are opened there are lots of people who would not go out, they are so totally dehumanised. They cease to exist as human beings and might as well be entombed. This is a serious danger in any prolonged isolation of an individual in a reasonably passive milieu where there are not many demands made on them in relation to a responsibility. Secondly, the doctor may find that it is impossible for him to give an opinion that will necessarily be the correct one. I know the answer to that is that all he is asked for is his best advice. But in many situations there are occasions when a doctor fearful that the drug addict may become violent or assault somebody in an attempt to obtain heroin. This is the real decision being asked “Has this man ceased to be a menace to society?” It is a very difficult one to answer. Our society tends to lock up people for long periods for the wrong reasons.
The general attempt is being made to persuade the person, by fines, warnings and so on, to come to terms with their difficulty. Eventually, one ends up with the courts and the possibility of prison. I do not agree with prisons. I do not believe in criminality or criminals. To me they are simply another manifestation of a human being coping with stress problems in a particularly aberrant way. That does not mean to say that I think everybody who robs a bank should be allowed to rob another bank. They need help and should get it. I would be in favour of the Swedish approach to this kind of situation, where we would accept that they have a problem and we would try and help them to come to terms with that problem rather than accepting that they are bad. I do not know which of us is competent to make a moral judgment about any of these things and, to the best of my ability, I try not to do so.
Finally, I should like to agree with Senator West, a number of Senators and Deputies, who have referred to the Drug Squad. Most of the time the police come in for a hard time. They are nearly always being criticised and abused. One feels somewhat sorry for  them, particularly when the criticism is unmerited. I have had dealings with the Drug Squad over a number of years because of the young people I have had to look after. I am delighted to hear that Sergeant Mullins, the present head of the Drug Squad, has been promoted. Their method of handling these problems is very advanced. Because of the generally repressive attitudes of our society and our culture in most things, in the schools, colleges and so on, I was surpried when I came in contact with the Drug Squad in the first place to find Sergeant Mullins, in particular, to be a very sympathetic and understanding person. He was not interested in getting the young persons into prison but simply wanted to help them. A number of people we jointly dealt with have repaid this tolerance and humanity during that time by coming to terms with their problem and changing their lives completely. If they were sent to jail and punished a new grievance would have been created in their minds and they would not have changed. A most notorious drug pusher and drug addict is at present doing wonderful work abroad for CONCERN. That is one of the reasons why one must not judge any of these people. Whether their problem is alcohol or drugs, they are still suffering. It could happen to any one of us. We should try to recognise that nobody chooses to make themselves miserable. It is something within themselves which is driving them to do these terrible things to themselves. We should have nothing but sympathy for them. I should like to see our penal system changed. I am glad to see that in this Bill the general tenor of it is compassionate and humane and an attempt to help people with the serious problem of drug abuse.
Mr. M.D. Higgins Mr. M.D. Higgins
Mr. M.D. Higgins: The point which has struck me most forcibly listening to this debate has been the difference between the debate in the Dáil and Seanad and the usual debate which takes place among the public on the subject of drugs and drug abuse. The public discussion is often insensitive and crude in a number of important ways. If I am brief in my speech, and I shall be, it is because, as a  sociologist, I am aware of the confused nature of findings in this general area of the practice of drug abuse and the legislation and treatment of it.
I should like to make two points which are essential to any consideration of the practice of drug abuse in a society. In an area where there is very little agreement most commentators would agree that drug abuse is escapist and also that it is an activity which is participated in by a minority when legislation addresses itself to it.
That aspect of drug abuse which has drawn most attention from legislators and public commentators is the portion of drug abuse which is participated in by a minority. On these two factors, the factor of it being escapist and that the majority directs its attention at the drug abuse of the minority, tells us a great deal about society. Firstly, in legislating in this area for the misuse of drugs if one acknowledges that the abuse of drugs is escapist it automatically addresses one's attention to the structure of the society, of the institutions, of the life and prospects which society is offering. It is impossible to understand the career of an alcoholic without understanding the social atmosphere, the nexus of social institutions, the set of expectations which the individual has learned to hope for and has perhaps realised will not be attained and the adjustments he might have to make at a psychic or social level. These are crucially important. In the case of the incidence of drug abuse biographical approach automatically stretches the problem back into the society.
There is another factor which is also important. I have spoken about the incidence of drug abuse and one could understand it by looking at the biography of abuse by an offender. There is something else, however—the rate of drug abuse in a society. Since the 19th century, when people were writing about this, the rate of drug abuse is a good indicator of the society. For example, the looseness of the society, when a society tends to fall apart, is a time of high drug abuse. But I suggest that it is understandable  in terms of the rate of abuse. Therefore the rate of abuse at an aggregated level tells us something of the general features of the society. The incidence of abuse tells us something about the individual terror which an individual must go through to break out of a bind in which the society traps him.
There is another point which I should like to make. With regard to drug abuse in general I would be pessimistic about the possibility of legislation in this area ever being successful as long as it is possible to make money from drug abuse. The people who make money from drug abuse are primarily the very large international pharmaceutical firms who are very much interested in controlling the conditions of medication rather than in positive health. The second point is that there are the sordid people who push the drugs which are consumed by a minority and these, too, are in it for money. The ability to make money from an abuse is one of the things which always go against the legislation.
I join with Senator Noel Browne in complimenting the Minister for erring on the side of humanity. For the other reasons, too, I recognise the very serious difficulties of establishing a piece of legislation. Those sections in the Bill which deal with the rights to enter a house and take possession and so on are very difficult ones. At all times two things balance each other out. There is a concern for public welfare and health and, on the other hand, there is the strident assertion of the right to privacy. How is one to strike a mean between these two? Has the individual the right to private abuse, in isolation, in a society? How does one answer this? It is a most difficult position for a Minister because he has to strike that balance.
There is another extremely important matter which is being crudely debated in our society at present. I was at a seminar recently where people were speaking about problems of youth. An important speaker suggested that young people today have to deal with the problem of drugs as if it were a new form of influenza which had not  existed in some other period and could be beaten off. Such a suggestion is manifestly absurd. At the outset of my remarks I mentioned the social location of drug abuse. It is absolutely essential to understand that. If one makes a mistake in the definition of drug abuse any possibility of treating it is fired away. If one ignores the fact that it may be a damaged personality in a family situation which has lead the person into a career of drug abuse, then when treatment is offered to the person he or she will be set apart from the family and will return to the exact same situation which had started the problem in the beginning. The adequacy of the provisions is limited by the adequacy of the problem being stated. The Minister has had no assistance from the strident, cruel scare-mongers in society who have not wanted to treat the matter scientifically. The Minister has made a considerable achievement, given these difficulties.
The Minister has faced another difficulty with the medical profession. It is appalling that we have had such dreadful tardiness in the medical profession in directing their purpose to positive health. When will we have doctors sufficiently socially responsible to address themselves to the importance of housing, nutrition, diet, exercise, adequate hygiene in public places? These are so important, but not so valuable as income earning activities compared with the treatment of ill health in a medical way. Many doctors have admitted to me that they begin a treatment, no matter what it is, by putting the patient into a situation where they can examine and listen to him or her. It has almost become the sine qua non of the commencement of medical treatment that tranquillisers and other forms of medication are fired out indiscriminately. The Minister has had to deal, for the most part, with a profession more interested in income and status in society than in changing the society. It is time we all went on record on that one. Secondly, there is the problem of public interest in the crude alarmist aspects of drug abuse rather than sensitive comprehension.
The general rate of consumption of  drugs is an indicator of the state of society. Accepting that proposition, one sees that Irish society is in a fairly bad state in a number of ways. There is no doubt whatever that the high consumption of alcohol is an indication of depression. This depression is an indication of frustration of life expectations in a number of ways. I have been saying that the obstacle which stands in the way of understanding the use of drugs in our society is the mystification concerning some of our institutions. We have suggested generally that the family, as an institution, is a very positive and good thing. There is considerable information that the Irish family is very frequently a source of terror, real pain and real anguish for the people who participate within it. There is a notion that the family is the location of something very positive and caring and so on. I suggest that when it is caring it is possessive, often to the point of destruction of its members. It is suggested that it is intimate; I suggest that it is, in fact, close in the terror and complete destruction which it brings about of the individual participants. I suggest that it has persisted across different generations and has held together above all else on the possibility of transferring property rather than the exchange of love, affection and other warm feelings so valuable for the people within it. That is just one of the institutions which is characterised, I am suggesting, by its highly represssive character rather than by its positive character. When we speak on this first component of drug abuse, that is, the incidence of drug abuse at one period in society, it is absolutely essential that we have a willingness to look at the sources of institutional terror and the profile of institutional terror which is creating the dilemma which the individual in his biography will act out.
There is one point I mentioned earlier about which most writers would agree, that is, that drug taking is an escapist activity. There are a number of reasons for this and I want to examine one or two of the implications. Can one acknowledge that it is escapist and walk away from such a statement? The question arises as to what the person is escaping from. One notices immediately  that in the west coast of America area particularly, where drug taking became a cultural activity in itself, it was a very strongly depoliticised activity. I could not emphasise that enough. I met many of the young people in the United States, spoke to them and attended meetings with them. The culture in which they were participating through taking drugs was an alternative in a society where they had had no political option, a society which was divided between two parties, both ambivalent, at the time of a massive war in Asia. The activity to which people dropped out was drug taking.
In many cases there is something wrong with our institutions. They are unable to care. Because of what is wrong with the institutional expression of our social purpose in politics, people may have to resort to this activity. Then, too, it is not accidental that it is at a time when physical energy has outstripped mental or reflective attention that the activity is at its height. Many of the young people involved in drug abuse look at future institutional participation and see it as a tedium rather than as a prospect It is in this situation that it is more attractive to celebrate the moments when one is free from the institutional pressure rather than to anticipate participation in institutions which one can never change. In many cases it is because we have made the future so horrible that the present is so unattractive for the person involved in drug abuse. I join with the Senators who have complimented the Minister for erring on the side of compassion in preparation of this legislation for precisely that reason. I want to make another plea which might help in some way. In the case of education on the general subject of drugs, it is about time that people involved in public statements, both clerical and lay, realised that there is nothing to be gained by purveying false information. If one tells groups of young people that drugs are on the increase—whatever that meaningless phrase might mean—and if any intelligent young person can disprove a statement that is made, all one has done is make oneself, at best, look ridiculous but for the most part dishonest.  It is better that presentations on this subject be factual and careful and that they take into account the intelligence of the receiving public.
It is important to realise some of the very highly institutional forces which take advantage of drug abuse. I have spoken of the difficulties which face legislation in this area. I have mentioned the pharmaceutical firms and I do not want to delay on people who are involved in the marketing of cigarettes and alcohol. In that respect one of the things that has been well acknowledged is the structure of the advertising code itself. It is probably appropriate for another occasion that we should assist the Minister for Health in making substantial changes within the advertising code so as to enable the advertisement which his Department places to have an impact which other advertising has been able to afford. It is an absurd situation that the Minister for Health has to spend public money on advertisements informing people about the very obvious, real and dreadful effects of alcohol and tobacco and at the same time the Government are themselves relying on revenue from commodities which are advertised on the same station on the same night, often within an hour or two of each other. This society will have to face up to the fact of phasing out all advertisements of drink and tobacco. It has to be done.
I would suggest another important point, if I may anticipate a difficulty which has not arisen so far. The structure of our population has changed. This has brought a great increase in the number of people in their late teens who, within the next ten years, will be heading into their twenties. In a situation where job prospects are not good and where people will have more free time and may feel that participation in education is no longer the guarantee of an occupation, what is to happen to this vast number of young people? Should they be bombarded on our television by corrupt advertisements? I hope that will represent the most political potential in human terms of any time in our society. It means that we have a group of people who are extremely vulnerable to the worst abuses of institutionalised  advertising.
I want to give some simple facts in my general plea for precision in the public discussion on this case. When people have been making the case, for example, for and against cannabis, they are not often sufficiently sensitive to the necessity for distinctions between different levels dependence. It is very important to draw a distinction between the simple effect of cannabis within the system and the effect of participation within a social setting in which cannabis is consumed. When people suggest. as they have often done in public, that cannabis automatically leads to other forms of practice, what they are saying is that the social milieu in which cannabis was partaken in the first instance has been reproduced and that one can say that this milieu may be a location in which there have been other practices of abuse of drugs as well.
It is important to be compassionate in the form of the law and to be precise in definition and treatment, but it is also necessary to retain a sense of balance. I was impressed by the remark made that social practices in this area were highly relative. Apart from the incest taboo there is practically no social practice which has not at some stage or another been highly recommended and proscribed.
Dr. West Dr. West
Dr. West: And the Senator has tried them all?
Mr. M.D. Higgins Mr. M.D. Higgins
Mr. M.D. Higgins: Not quite.
Dr. West Dr. West
Dr. West: Keep trying.
Mr. M.D. Higgins Mr. M.D. Higgins
Mr. M.D. Higgins: The necessary relative character of social practice may be a clue to something else. In many cultures the taking of drugs is almost religious in its form. It is certainly ritualistic and in a broad general sense is, in fact, religious. I have spoken about the tedium which institutions hold as a prospect for many young people and which may lead them to be disenchanted with society. It is the particularly doctrinaire, dogmatic, hopeless and joyless form of religious practic which is responsible to some extent for people taking on some other form of extra sensory achievement. Quite frankly, if we are to be honest we will have to  go right through the institutions which have become joyless, dull and tedious. I am not making a condemnation by saying that that is my evaluation. That is the perception of institutions which is often in the minds of many young people to whom this legislation is addressed.
When people have spoken about the effect of a drug I have argued for a distinction between its simple physiological effect and its social effect. The argument for the legislation of cannabis is a complicated matter on which I do not have very hard opinions. One of the arguments made for it was that the effect of cannabis did not have the aggression in it which the effect of alcohol had. One of the most nightmarish aspects of alcohol abuse is the high character of aggression which necessarily has gone with it.
Aggression rather than compassion is emphasised within our educational system. Every child who goes for an interview leaving the secondary school system is told how to win, how to look like a winner and, more important, how to root the interviewer to the ground with an image of a highly externalised aggressive personality. The person who might be thoughtful and sensitive is almost a loser from the start. A widespread excessive consumption of alcohol combined with high valuation of agression in our culture and the expression of agression in educational preparation has been a deadly combination in Irish society generally.
I will finish by making one more point. I worry about the implementation of a Bill such as this in one other way. At the end of a day, when a person involved in drug abuse comes before the bench to answer a charge, one has to see what is involved there. If section 28 of the Bill had not existed one would have a very speedy derogation ceremony in which evidence would be adduced against the person. The person would be processed, labelled and then removed from society to prison. This is unlikely to happen now because of some of the possibilities contained within that section. However, there is a difficulty in it to which we should  address ourselves. It is this. The logic of this debate will not be available to the judge of the day; but what will be available to the judge of the day, as a legal definition of misuse of drugs, as a legal perception of the effect of misuse of drugs, will be the public definition. I have argued that the public definition is crude and insensitive and lacks compassion. We need to involve ourselves in a massive educational programme so as to clear up the many errors of fact and also to create a better atmosphere into which young people and people who defend the institutions which make judgments upon them could enter into an interaction on a better basis altogether.
I want to end by simply saying this. In all of what I have said so far there is one thing that appalls me. At a time when society, through this legislation for example, can direct its attention so readily to the drug abuse of a minority in the society, is it not appalling that the drug abuse of the majority through consumption of alcohol and nicotine can go almost ignored? Is it not appalling altogether that the very people who claim to be responsible for the health of the nation themselves refuse to break with pharmaceutical irresponsibility, to reexamine the principles upon which the health of the nation might be structured to develop? These are two massive errors of omission which affect not the minority but the majority —children, young people, old people. I think, in fact, that these omissions of the practice of the majority really mean that we are unwilling to look at our institutions which are creating the despair and hopelessness in our society and that it is safer for us, politically, to direct our attention at the less organised group of people, the minority of drug abusers.
I want to end by congratulating the Minister on section 28 and asking him to bear in mind the circumstances in which that section will be interpreted in legal process. I see this presenting many real difficulties because of the background of judges and of the situation in which judges will have one eye on a purpose which is not rehabilitative  or which is not a matter of implementing the Minister's Bill; it will rather be a matter of keeping the public mind happy. Keeping the public mind happy in this case means keeping the minds of the majority or drug abusers happy; punishing the minority drug abuser to keep the majority drug abuser's mind in complacency.
Cáit Uí Eachthéirn Cáit Uí Eachthéirn
Cáit Uí Eachthéirn: As Senator Dr. Browne had said, this Bill has been very well scrutinised and debated and improved in the Special Committee. There is very little left for us to do except make a few general remarks.
I was glad to see the very compassionate way in which Senator Dr. Browne dealt with the situation. I believe that people who take drugs are more to be pitied than blamed. I do not agree with him that we should use kid gloves in dealing with pushers of drugs. We should use every means in our power to penalise these people, whose only motive in pushing their drugs is to amass wealth and to break down the whole fabric of our society. We are very good at criticising Ministers when they bring us bad legislation. This we believe, happened yesterday.
Dr. West Dr. West
Dr. West: Some of us, unfortunately, were not here to criticise it.
Cáit Uí Eachthéirn Cáit Uí Eachthéirn
Cáit Uí Eachthéirn: I believe that when we get good legislation, something that is very good for the country, we should compliment the Minister and give him every help that we possibly can. This is the case in this instance and the comments, from most of us, will be very brief.
Up to quite recently this problem of drug addiction had been pushed under the mat. I am very glad that it is being brought out in the open and that we are nipping this problem in the bud. I was glad to hear Senator West say that drug abuse was very much on the decrease. We are not warning the young people sufficiently of the dangers of either soft drugs or hard drugs. As Senator Dolan said yesterday, we need to mount a campaign through the media to point out the dangers of drug addiction.
Much has been said about alcohol. That problem has been with us for  many a long day. It was the poverty of our society in the early days that made us a nation of alcoholics. While speaking about the drug of alcoholism, I think it is only fair to compliment that wonderful organisation, Alcoholics Anonymous, on the very sympathetic and compassionate way in which they have dealt with that problem. I would hope that one day some organisation on the same lines as AA will deal with those who are hooked on drugs.
I should like to compliment the Minister on the effort he is about to make to rehabilitate these people. Many of them get into this situation through ignorance and innocence. It is only proper that we should do everything possible to rehabilitate them and cure this addiction.
I will end by expressing the hope that some compassionate organisation like AA will one day be there to help the people, especially the young people, who get hooked on any type of drug and to help the unfortunate parents and relatives who have to cope with this very difficult situation. I am glad that the Minister is taking a sympathetic view and I hope that he will leave nothing undone to help the young and the not so young and everybody involved in this very sad situation.
Ruairí Quinn Ruairí Quinn
Ruairí Quinn: I recognise that the Minister has many obligations. I would like to make one or two points very briefly. First of all, I would like to congratulate him and endorse the comments made by my colleague, Senator Higgins. I do not propose to follow him on them because I think he has amply explored that entire area and I find myself in very substantial agreement with him on it. I would endorse his comments about the culture of drugs in Ireland.
With regard to the demand for the legalisation of cannabis—unfortunately I missed the Minister's opening remarks but I have read his speech now—the essential difference between what I would describe as the liberal attitude to this kind of issue and the socialist position is that the liberal attitude effectively states that so long as you do not interfere with me, my family or my children, you can do what you like, so to speak. That is really to a certain  extent quite irresponsible because it allows, in effect, a law of the jungle of one kind or another to continue. Our attitude as a socialist party would be that people who are forced into resorting to the illegal use of drugs such as outlined in this Bill are people who are very much victims of our society. The degree of compassion which the Minister has shown in this regard is one that we would both support and commend. To that extent I feel the Labour Party's position in this is quite clear—compassion for the people who feel alienated in one form or another and resort to drugs and particular compassion for people who have resorted to the use of illegal drugs, or the drugs described in this Bill, but combined with this a strong and firm attitude to the people who are exploiting this weakness. We would not make any distinction between somebody who choose to exploit purely for commercial purposes this particular weakness as distinct from other weaknesses in society. Therefore, it is totally consistent with our point of view.
The powers of arrest under section 25 are quite necessary. I recognise that a lot of detailed work has been done in this regard. Under this legislation, which will no doubt be passed, we are giving the Garda additional powers, with reasonable cause. We are giving additional discretionary powers to individual members of the Garda. We are giving those powers at a time when, as will be seen from a motion in the other House, the Garda are under considerable pressure.
Again this reinforces the argument that we need an independent complaints commission within the Garda. I would urge the Minister to a recognition of that because this legislation will bring the Garda into a situation of exercising judgment and discretion in their dealings with the public. They will thereby be extremely vulnerable to accusations of abuse of those powers. There is a prime need for such a complaints commission now more than ever before. I said this before last autumn when the previous legislation was introduced. The need for this type of complaints commission is not related to the security position obtaining  in Northern Ireland or in our prisons here. I refer generally to the divide that occurs in our larger centres between members of the Garda Síochána and certain sections of our community. There is an absolute necessity for an independent complaints commission where civil rather than political cases can be given attention and consideration. Otherwise, I fear the separation of culture which has produced the small drug culture in our society, that has produced an increasingly large proportion of our people under the age of 25 alienated potentially from our institutions and from the executive arm of our institutions, the Garda Síochána. In welcoming this Bill, which is a very enlightened approach to the problem, I would urge the Minister to use his good offices to lend support to the demands which have come from this House in the past and now for the speedy establishment of an independent complaints commission within the Garda Síochána to give strength and purpose to the kind of discretionary powers this Bill seeks to give them.
Professor Quinlan Professor Quinlan
Professor Quinlan: I welcome this Bill. It is indeed timely. We all know the ravages that narcotics have wrought on populations elsewhere. Consequently, it is time that we should tighten up our legislation to prevent further development here.
We are all aware of the sloppy thinking that goes on about narcotics, all the pressure lobbies that try to get various drugs off the narcotics list. We see this in America in particular where great efforts are made, backed, I suspect, by funds from the drug companies or illicit traders, to take certain drugs off the list. I hope we will not follow that path but will adopt a sane and prudent course and give every help to our law-enforcement agencies to prevent this vile trade from developing further here. We know that it takes place particularly in certain parts of Dublin. We want to avoid especially the efforts made in America and elsewhere to corrupt the young by getting them hooked on these drugs, first of all, with drugs  regarded simply as giving a lift and which are not habit forming. Once one takes that path, the end is very often too predictable. Consequently, I would appeal to the Minister to provide the necessary resources and backup facilities to the Garda and others for dealing with such cases, also on the rehabilitation side to do everything humanly possible to free unfortunate victims of this scourge.
I commend the Bill. I wish to join in the tribute to the Special Committee of the Dáil that did such an excellent job on this very complex problem. We should see far more of these special committees in the future. It is the up-to-date and progressive way to deal with legislation. I ask that a special effort be made to send many of the other problems that have been mooted and should be dealt with to special committees. Seanad Éireann can and should play a vital part in such special committees.
Minister for Health (Mr. Corish) Brendan Corish
Minister for Health (Mr. Corish): I should like to thank Senators who spoke and gave an unqualified welcome to this Bill. This was made possible by reason of the fact that we established the Special Committee of the Dáil. There was no evidence that there was any political approach to any of the difficulties we had when the Bill was being considered in Committee and I should emphasise that there were no divisions at any stage. I suppose that is not a great feat in view of the fact that this is a Bill which is very badly needed at present. It would be very difficult for me to reply at length in respect of various sections. The main contributions were in terms of attitudes towards drug abusers and the reasons why young people especially resorted to drugs, pressures of society and so on.
It is encouraging—although I do not know what real evidence there is—to hear from Senator West that the drug problem had decreased in the last two years. That may be so. He spoke of a particular institution in Dublin in that respect. Whether or not there has been a decrease in the city or country as a whole, I am not quite certain. In any event, it is incumbent  on us to have suitable legislation, not alone to meet the present situation but any situation that may arise where there would be an increase in the abuse of drugs.
The Bill is designed on the one hand to ensure we have the most effective controls possible over drugs which can be abused and we have that in this Bill. On the other hand, and this was a very vital change that was made in the first Bill that was produced, we want to ensure that the people with a drug problem are dealt with sympathetically and have the most effective range of care and treatment possible. No matter what we might say about drug abusers we must recognise that they have a problem. It is incumbent on us to see how far we can have them cured, rehabilitated and have them behave as normal members of society. There is provision for that in this Bill; there was not in the last Bill. I am not critical of that. But it was worthwhile that there should be such a delay in the final stages of the Bill in view of the fact that these and other provisions have been included. It is a very humane approach and has been welcomed by Senators.
In a case where a young person is found guilty the district justice or judge who hears the case must get a medical and social report and then decide whether or not there should be treatment given to the particular offender. The original Bill was defective in this respect in that no account was taken of the need to ensure that the courts adequately took into account the problems of addicts themselves following conviction. This has been remedied by the inclusion of an entirely new section, to which many Senators referred, section 28. This effectively ensures that where a convicted person has a drug problem the court will have to be made fully aware both of the nature of the problem and the best way it can be treated, or care provided where the particular person requires it.
In the original Bill in section 25 there was provision for a very arbitrary power of arrest, without warrent, by members of the Garda  Síochana. It was contained in about four lines. It looked stark to me when I read it in the first Bill and I decided that something should be done about it. As is seen in the Bill, on reflection I concluded that this power should be used only for the gravest offence, that is, the offence of pushing, to which so many Senators referred in their contributions. For all other offences reasonable cause has to be shown by the Garda in a case where he suspects that an offence has been committed. I should say also that there is a variation in the powers of the Garda with regard to a certain type of person. Where a garda has reasonable cause to suspect that a crime has been committed and he believes, with reasonable cause, the person will either abscond, give a false name or address, does not live in the State or will interfere with the course of justice, he has power to arrest that particular person. It is only correct because these people who are pushers do not stay in the one locality. They move quickly and move their drugs with them. We would be making somewhat of a laugh of legislation were we to apply the ordinary procedure towards that type of person. In other cases the ordinary procedure must be carried out under which a peace commissioner or a district justice can give a warrant to a member of the Garda Síochána.
The Committee decided, on my suggestion, that we should have only one Schedule of controlled drugs. When the original Bill was published there were three Schedules. Not only was that cumbersome, but it was confusing. The Committee believed that in all the circumstances—and I am sure Senators will agree—one Schedule was the simplist and most effective as well.
I would like to correct a point Senator Dolan made in relation to the penalties for pushing. He inadvertently said that the fine was £50 which would be indeed a very small amount of money for such a grievous offence. I should say that, on summary conviction for pushing—that is under section 15, the pushing section as we call it—the court can impose a maximum penalty of £250 or 12 months in jail or, on indictment, where the offence is grave,  an offender can be fined £3,000 with a 14 year jail sentence.
Whilst we are all very hard on the pusher, and rightly so in a general sense, we must realise also that he can have a problem himself. He could be a drug abuser himself. In that case we should show him a certain amount of sympathy and make all efforts to have him rehabilitated, to become what might be described as an ordinary member of the public. Whilst the penalty for pushing is very hard, we have to take all sorts of circumstances into consideration through a medical and social report before a decision is given in his case.
Senator Dolan also talked about paraquat and paraquat control. That is controlled under special regulations. Whether or not they are tight enough is anybody's opinion. As far as that product is concerned, it has to be labelled in a very special way, only sold to persons engaged in agriculture or horticulture and is available only through a chemist or some other licensed outlets, such as hardware stores and so on. I appreciate the Deputy's concern in view of the unfortunate accidents which have occurred in recent times. As I said in the Dáil in reply to many questions, all we can do will be done to ensure that this hazard will not be lying around in various places.
Senator West talked about compulsory treatment. Section 28 allows only for compulsory detention. The convicted person has the option of undergoing treatment. To make treatment compulsory would be in conflict with the individual's rights. For example if a drug addict is mentally incapable, he can be compulsorily detained and treated under the Mental Treatment Act.
There are many other things mentioned. Senator West mentioned “The Golden Triangle” film he saw. He said he protested to Radio Telefís Éireann. Certainly I will make inquiries into that matter. I did not see the film, but I will get in touch with Radio Telefís Éireann about the matter.
There was quite an amount of talk about cannabis not alone here but in  the Special Committee as well. Senator West said the position in regard to the availability of cannabis should be eased. I would not go so far as to say “availability”; I would say the penalties for use of cannabis should be eased. There was an opinion in the Special Committee that it should not be regarded as an offence. On reconsideration over a long period it was decided that it should be included in the Schedule but with lesser penalties, particularly for the first and second offence, where there was no mention of imprisonment but where, on the third offence, there could be imprisonment. Of course, there is always the stipulation, that the offender could be sent for treatment. As far as the effects of cannabis are concerned, again it is a matter of opinion. There is for and against, not alone in this country but in others as well, from various international medical bodies. Again the Committee believed that, in the longterm, it should be included in the Schedule.
Senator West mentioned also the need to ensure the safe custody of drugs. I can assure him that, as far as that is concerned, under section 51, a Minister for Health can make regulations in order to have adequate control over places where drugs are kept.
Senator West also requested some information on practical co-operation between the Drug Squad and the customs authority. I do not think I should do that. I do not think we should make it known to those who are engaged in pushing drugs or in drug abuse who would then be aware of the activities of the Garda and the customs official's.
Senator Browne expressed many opinions. I do not think he need have fears in regard to certain precautions, because they are contained in the Bill. He mentioned particularly smoking, alcohol and so on. Most people are now aware of what the Department of Health are endeavouring to do with the Health Education Bureau, with Alcoholics Anonymous, the Irish Heart Foundation and indeed through Radio Telefís Éireann.
 Senator Browne mentioned that barbiturates were not included in the Schedule. They are; I have some examples of them, some names which are unpronounceable—Amylo-barbitone, Pentobarbitone and Pheno-barbitone. These are included in the Schedule and taken care of.
Senator Browne, Senator O'Higgins and others mentioned the danger of somebody being incarcerated in a treatment centre for an unnecessarily long time. There is provision for that under section 28—a person involved someone on his behalf or a medical practitioner at the centre, can apply to the court to have detention revoked. The court may make a decision on the detention at that stage.
I was not asked many question's in relation to the Bill as such. It was essentially attitudes and opinions which were mentioned as to what the public and the individual should do and so on. May I say how glad I am that Members of the Seanad have welcomed this Bill? The sooner it is implemented the better because, although it is said that drug addiction has decreased, we must provide for those still addicted to drugs and for those involved in pushing.
Question put and agreed to.
Agreed to take remaining Stages today.
Seanad Éireann 86 Misuse of Drugs Bill, 1973: Second Stage (Resumed).