Citizens’ Assembly votes to end current approach to possession of drugs for personal use

Majority of members voted for comprehensive health-led approach to policy on illegal drug use

The members of the Citizens’ Assembly on drug use have voted to recommend the end of the current system of prosecuting those caught with illegal substances for personal use.

Just 11 (17 per cent) of the 87 members voted in favour of retaining the current criminal approach to personal possession. Some 74 or 85 per cent of members believe it should not be retained as it stands.

A majority of members of the Citizen’s Assembly voted for a comprehensive health-led approach to the policy on illegal drug use.

Almost twice as many citizens (38 v 20) voted for that approach in comparison with the status quo. Of the 87 citizens who voted just 10 people believed tolerance of illegal drugs was the correct way forward.


In relation to cannabis, almost half (36) voted for the legalisation and regulation of cannabis with 23 opting for a comprehensive health-led strategy and 10 for the status quo.

Opinion on the legalisation of cannabis was evenly divided. On the final ballot, when all other options were eliminated, the citizens voted by 39 to 38 for a comprehensive health-led strategy over legalisation.

The members may have been influenced by an intervention from the Irish College of General Practitioners (ICGP) in advance of the final meeting of the assembly which said the legalisation of cannabis would be dangerous.

The members voted overwhelmingly for a comprehensive health-led approach to cocaine with 56 votes in favour and 22 opting for the status quo. Just eight members voted for the legalisation and regulation on cocaine.

In relation to magic mushrooms and Dimenthyltryptamine (DMT), a hallucinogenic drug and similar drugs, more than a quarter (24 out of 85 votes cast) opted for legalisation and regulation almost the same as the number of voted for a comprehensive health-led approach.

A recommendation from the floor for a drugs tsar, or administrator, to oversee Government strategy was comprehensively rejected from a show of hands from the floor.

This is the sixth and last meeting of the 100 member Assembly that has been working since early April with 87 present for the final vote.

At this final meeting members are agreeing a series of questions to be voted on through the weekend that will then form the basis of a final report from the Assembly, to be submitted to the Oireachtas by the end of this year.

Assembly chair Paul Reid, the former HSE chief executive, said members were choosing between “evolution or revolution” in relation to drugs laws, but the members needed to recommend changes that were implementable as Government level.

The meeting marked the culmination of six months of wide-ranging discussions that amount to the most thorough consideration of Ireland’s existing drugs laws and policy in the history of the State.

This process has included 120 individual presentations, almost 200 hours of discussion, and consideration of almost 800 submissions received during the open public consultation process.

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy is a news reporter with The Irish Times