New report recommends overhaul of Ireland’s drugs regime

New report recommends overhaul of Ireland's drugs regime

The Citizens’ Assembly on Drugs Use, which met from April to October last year, has published its final report, with 36 recommendations for a new Irish model to reduce the harm caused by illicit drugs use.

The report and recommendations were formally launched by Assembly chair Paul Reid, and Government chief whip, Hildegarde Naughton.

The report sets out the totality of the work of the 100-member Assembly over six months, representing the most comprehensive and widespread discussion on drugs policy in the history of the State, which included 130 speakers and panellists, 250 hours of deliberations, and 800 public submissions.

The recommendations propose significant changes to existing laws governing penalties for the possession of drugs for personal use, greater funding for and resourcing of services at national and local levels, greater oversight and accountability at Cabinet level, and a broader focus on prevention measures and education about the harmful impact of drugs use.

The report also details the votes by members on the final set of recommendations, where they supported specific measures for implementation including:

  • A decriminalised model, put in place by a pivot from a reliance, in the first instance, on a criminal justice response towards a comprehensive health-led response
  • Strengthened political oversight and priority through the establishment of a dedicated Cabinet Committee on Drugs, chaired by the Taoiseach
  • Prioritisation of supports for marginalised groups and disadvantaged communities
  • Enhanced funding, including additional and new sources of funding
  • A greater focus on prevention and recovery and greater supports for families and children impacted by drug use
  • Strengthened services including the expansion of harm reduction measures and treatment and recovery services, both in prison and in communities
  • Supply reduction, supporting the continued efforts of the Gardaí while strengthening the response to drug-related intimidation and violence by organised crime groups.

Mr Reid said: “We see the remarkable work being done by service providers across the community, voluntary and statutory sectors. They need and deserve greater resources to carry out their work. We do not have to wait for the Oireachtas to consider this report for them to receive the funding to allow them to do their work effectively.

“The Citizens’ Assembly was given the important job of considering what the State could do to significantly reduce the harms caused by illicit drug use, and a clear deadline to produce a final report. We have produced an Irish model set in an Irish context that represents a generational chance to improve the lives of many individuals, families and communities impacted by our current approach to drug use. We owe it to them and society in general to embrace this opportunity.”

Ms Naughton commented: “Misuse of illicit drugs affects every part of Irish society whether urban or rural, affluent or disadvantaged. The misuse of drugs has devastating consequences for not only the individual grappling with addiction, but also for their families and the communities in which they live. Government is committed to taking a health-led approach to the issue of illicit drugs, a position which is endorsed by this report.

“I would like to thank the 100 members of the Citizens’ Assembly on Drugs Use, including its Chairman Paul Reid, for all their work, time, and effort in producing this comprehensive report and important recommendations. Citizens’ Assemblies are now a feature of our democratic process and I believe this has been an example of deliberative democracy at its best.”

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