Overhaul of drugs policy

 

Sir, – While I welcome the policy of diverting those caught in possession of drugs for personal use into the health system rather than the criminal justice system, I believe that limiting it to the first offence is effectively a halfway house rather than the full decriminalisation that is warranted (“First-time drug offenders to be referred to HSE in policy overhaul”, News, August 2nd).

If we truly want to address drug use and addiction in society, we must adopt a progressive policy of a committed health-led approach instead of criminalising people who need help rather than a prison sentence.

We need greater clarity on what mandatory referral to the HSE means. If an individual has a serious issue with hard drugs, medical advice may be appropriate. Individuals must also be guaranteed confidentiality when it comes to access to data by insurance companies. Referring individuals to the HSE for small amounts of cannabis, however, can only help clog up an already stretched service and would quickly become inoperable.

While I accept that this shift is a step in the right direction, I echo the Ana Liffey Drug Project’s call for a legal review of the expert group analysis that full decriminalisation would present “constitutional and legal difficulties”. If these difficulties exist, we must examine ways in which they can be addressed through robust legislation.

It is progress but it should go further if we are to stay in line with the global move towards a health-led approach to drug use and misuse.

I am also calling for the expungement of prior convictions for personal possession so that everyone can now be included in this new process and avail of the benefits of a more health-led approach. It would be completely unjust to exclude those with prior convictions. – Yours, etc,

GINO KENNY TD,

Leinster House,

Dublin 2.

Sir, – The news on drug offences is welcome but is not a radical new idea. Some of us have advocated this for over 20 years. I fervently hope that it is now approached in a structured, effective and expert manner.

There are two areas which it is vital to consider for “brief intervention” to be effective. First, the inclusion of assessment relating to alcohol consumption as well as any “illegal drugs”. The combined usage will determine the seriousness or otherwise of any problem. Second, I would urge the Government to extend this type of approach to those arrested for alcohol-related offenses. Early intervention and education works and is easily implemented. Drink driving, public order offences and domestic violence fuelled by alcohol are by far the more urgent areas to be addressed. – Yours, etc,

GERRY HICKEY,

Psychotherapist,

Dublin 2.