Small quantities of drugs may be decriminalised after report

Small quantities of drugs may be decriminalised after report

A new examination of Ireland's drug and alcohol policy was announced today and it may lead to the decriminalisation of small quantities of drugs.

The programme, called “Reducing Harm, Supporting Recovery – a health led response to drug and alcohol use in Ireland 2017-2025” was announced today and part of the approach will see a working group being set up to 'consider approaches to possession of small quantities of drugs for personal use and to report back in 12 months'.

All drugs fall under the scope so it is not just for cannabis and will include how to approach those caught with small amounts of harder drugs such as cocaine and heroin.

The Portuguese model has been mentioned, where since 2001 those caught with small amounts of illegal drugs are offered treatment rather than being processed as a criminal matter.

Speaking at the launch Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said: “For the ideal of a Republic of Opportunity to be meaningful, it must apply to all. Treating substance abuse and drug addiction as a public health issue, rather than a criminal justice issue, helps individuals, helps families, and helps communities. It reduces crime because it rebuilds lives. So it helps all of us.

“Ireland has a problem with substance misuse. Rates of drug use in Ireland have risen significantly over the past decade, with the greatest increases among younger people. These issues highlight the need to intervene effectively to reduce the harms associated with substance misuse, and combat the underlying reasons for the demand for drugs. Reducing Harm, Supporting Recovery represents a whole-of-government response to the problem of drug and alcohol use in Ireland. It recognises the importance of supporting the participation of communities in key decision making structures, so that their experience and knowledge informs the development of solutions to solve problems related to substance misuse in their areas. It emphasises a health-led response to drug and alcohol use, based on providing person-centred services that promote rehabilitation and recovery."

Ireland's attitude to alcohol will also be examined.

Minister of State for Health Promotion and the National Drugs Strategy, Catherine Byrne said “Ireland has a high level of alcohol consumption and many Irish people engage in harmful drinking patterns, which have significant health, social and economic costs. I welcome the fact that under this strategy, Drug and Alcohol Task Forces will be resourced to continue their work in raising awareness in communities of alcohol-related harm.”