Words: Dray Morgan
Today, the newly-formed Citizan’s Assembly on Drugs has released their first conclusions after a series of meetings, which state that all drugs should be decriminalised in favour of a “health-based approach”.
The Citizen’s Assembly on Drugs have recommended to the Irish Government that laws on personal possession of any illegal substance should be changed. Over 800 group submissions, 120 presentations and 200 hours of conference took place leading up to the 36 recommendations set to be released in a cohesive report shortly.
A specific legal alternative has not been proposed yet, however, the recommendation is that instead of being faced with Garda, those found to possess substances should be referred to health resources.
The conclusion was overwhelming for a palliative approach to every drug, apart from cannabis, where a health-led approach beat out recommending total legalisation by just one vote. However, 15 members of the assembly expressed their confusion previous to voting yet were stil forced to cast a ballot.
The group also called for a dedicated Government body which deals with reducing the harm of drug use in local communities. Named “The Cabinet Committee on Drugs”, it calls for extra funding of care for those who suffer with addiction and to provide more education about drug use.
The assembly is composed of 100 members of the public to consider the legislative, policy and operational changes Ireland could make to significantly reduce the harmful impacts of illicit drugs on individuals. Since its establishment in February of this year, the group have hosted seven meetings over a six-month period.
Chair of the committee, Paul Reid, stated “This is the most comprehensive, wide-ranging and representative discussion on all aspects of drugs that has ever happened in Ireland”.
As well as drawing on community recommendations, the Assembly also heard from various experts who have studied approaches to drugs such as in Portugal or Austria. The proposals by the assembly are not legally binding and therefore do not have to be implemented by the Irish Government.
Paul Reid remarked, “Ultimately it will be up to the Oireachtas, but if they do implement what we have called for, then it will change lives.”
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