New drugs strategy to consider decriminalisation

Catherine Byrne
Catherine Byrne

The new National Drugs Strategy could outline a proposal to decriminalise the possession of small amounts of illegal drugs for personal use.

Catherine Byrne, minister of state for drugs, will shortly receive a report from the steering committee set up to produce the strategy, Irish Legal News has been told.

According to The Irish Times, the latest draft states that a group should be established to “consider the approaches taken in other jurisdictions to the possession of small quantities of drugs for personal use”.

A spokesperson for the Department of Health told Irish Legal News today: “In recent years, there has been a growing level of interest in the issue of decriminalisation, in Ireland and internationally. Some countries have already taken steps to decriminalise possession of small quantities of drugs for personal use.

“In Ireland, there has been a great interest in the Portuguese approach to decriminalisation, and this was reflected in the findings of the public consultation on the National Drugs Strategy.

“The Steering Committee established to oversee the development of a new National Drugs Strategy has considered the issue of those with drug-related problems and an offending history and how best to promote their reintegration into society.

“The Steering Committee is aware of the report of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality, which concluded that a health-led approach may be more effective and more appropriate for those found in possession of a small amount of illegal drugs for personal use, rather than a criminal sanction. The report highlighted the need for research to ensure that the adoption of any alternative approach would be appropriate in the Irish context.

“Minister Byrne expects to receive the report of the Steering Committee on the National Drugs Strategy shortly. It is anticipated that the report will contain proposals aimed at promoting and supporting the rehabilitation of those with drug-related problems, and that alternative approaches to responding to those with an offending history, will be looked at in this context.”

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