Plan to liberalise illegal drugs law ‘contradictory and lacking in logic,’ campaigners say

Proposal envisages health interventions but stops short of full-blown decriminalisation

Plans envisage a move to providing drug counselling, addiction treatment and other health interventions for users.

Plans envisage a move to providing drug counselling, addiction treatment and other health interventions for users.

 

A proposal to liberalise the laws on cannabis and other illegal drugs that stops short of full-blown decriminalisation of the personal possession of drugs has been criticised by campaigners.

The plans envisage a move to providing drug counselling, addiction treatment and other health interventions for users found in possession of small amounts of drugs for personal use. However, some criminal sanctions are expected to remain.

CityWide Drugs Crisis Campaign, a national network of community activists and community organisations that are involved in responding to Ireland’s drugs crisis, has written to Taoiseach Leo Varadkar criticising the move.

“We, the undersigned, are writing to you in relation to the report of the working group on alternative approaches to criminalisation for possession of drugs for personal use,” the group said.

“We are aware that a memo based on the recommendations of the report will shortly be brought to Cabinet and we wish to express our concern at the indications that, while it will recommend a system for diversion to health services, which is very welcome, it will also recommend maintaining the criminal status of possession of drugs for personal use.”

The group said it understood that the report of the working group will “affirm the benefits of diverting people who use drugs from the justice system to the health system, as supported by the evidence base”.

However, it expressed “serious concern” at the suggestion that possession of small quantities will not be decriminalised entirely.

“We are now seriously concerned at the indications that the working group is saying that while it recommends implementing a diversion approach, this should only be done if at the same time we maintain criminal status for possession for personal use and maintain the right to impose potential criminal sanctions on people who use drugs,” it said.

“We believe that such a recommendation is both contradictory and lacking in logic, in that it appears to say that we need to maintain criminalisation in order to implement a health-led approach, on the basis that the legal changes required to decriminalise possession for personal use would be too complicated.

“If such a recommendation is accepted by government, we are effectively saying that we in Ireland are not capable of implementing a policy change that is evidence based, supported by the public because the legal changes required may be too complicated.”