Ireland: Citizens’ Assembly backs drug decriminalisation for personal use

Ireland: Citizens' Assembly backs drug decriminalisation for personal use

Possessing drugs for personal use should cease to be a criminal offence, Ireland’s Citizens’ Assembly on Drugs Use has recommended.

On Sunday, the sixth and final meeting of the Citizens’ Assembly — established by the Irish government — voted on and agreed 36 recommendations that will produce a new Irish model of legislation, policy and service to reduce the harm caused by illicit drugs use.

The agreed recommendations will now be compiled into a final report outlining the work of the Assembly over the six months since it first met in April this year, and will include summaries of the over 120 presentations, 200 hours of discussion, and 800 public submissions that were received.

A summary of the 36 recommendations was published yesterday. The final report will be submitted to the Oireachtas, the Irish parliament, by the end of the year.

The recommendations include significant changes to laws governing penalties for possession of drugs for personal use, effectively amounting to decriminalisation. This will mean an approach based on health-led interventions rather than through convictions via the criminal justice system.

Other key recommendations include greater responsibility and accountability for drugs policy at national level through the establishment of a dedicated Cabinet Committee on Drugs to be chaired by the Taoiseach, and increased funding for drugs treatment services alongside a greater focus on education about drugs use and prevention measures.

Paul Reid, chair of the Assembly, said: “The Assembly has stated loud and clear that the State needs to take a much more ambitious and progressive approach to dealing with drugs in Ireland.

“The Assembly recommendations call for significant change to how drugs issues are dealt with, including by the political system, by the criminal justice and health systems, and by the community and voluntary organisations providing supports across the country.

“There is no time to waste here. There has been much talk in recent years about the Portuguese approach to drugs. The Citizens’ Assembly has now recommended an Irish version of the Portuguese model.

“The Assembly’s final report will be submitted to the Oireachtas on schedule, by the end of this year. The ball will then be firmly in the court of the elected politicians. We will await their response with anticipation.”

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