The Irish state is 92 years old and since its foundation a policy of drug prohibition has been enforced.
However it would be over 40 years before the first drug offense arrest occurred in 1964, and later in that year the first appearances in court for drugs
Raifiu Ojikuto, a 26-year-old Nigerian medical student was arrested in April 1964 for possession of Purple Hearts (amphetamine stimulant tablets) becoming the first person in state history to be arrested on drugs charges.
However he was found dead having failed to appear in court, but his death was not treated as suspicious.
In September of the same year a Scottish male named Stewart and a local man named Colin were the first to appear in court for drugs charges.
Stewart was sentenced to six months’ imprisonment for importing 20 packets of Indian hemp and supplying five packets to persons unknown in O’Connell Street.
Colm was sentenced to six months’ imprisonment on charges of being in possession of two packets of Indian hemp.
These arrests would be the first of many in the state, although the first few years were relatively quiet, with just two arrests in 1965, one in 1966, and no arrests in 1967.
The quietness of the previous years was gone in 1968, as there were 24 people charged with drugs offences. By 1969, this number had risen to 59 and then to 71 people by 1970.
The sharp rise might be linked to the establishment of the Garda Dublin Drugs Squad in 1967.
In comparison if we look at the CSO crime figures we see in 2004 a total of 9,866 controlled drug offences, and this number rose each year until peaking at 23,404 in 2008.
Since then there has been a year on year decline, and the total number of controlled drug offences in 2014 was 15,384.
Between 2004 and 2013 there was a total of 170,878 recorded drug offences.
It should be noted that while the recent Garda scandal may throw some doubt over the CSO numbers, these figures give us an idea of the number of drug arrests that occur each year.
Another anniversary happening this year is the 30 years that have passed since the 1984 Misuse of Drugs Act was enacted. While it has been supplemented with pieces of legislation over the years, it is largely the framework for drug policy in this country.
Ireland like the rest of the world is a much different place than it was in 1984. Certainly in the Irish context we were what might be considered socially conservative in 1984, and arguably there has been significant liberalisation of views and laws since then.
Since 1984 many countries have adopted varying policies based on forms of decriminalisation and with an emphasis on harm reduction.
One of the reasons for this change generally involves an acceptance that drug prohibition has failed, and awareness of this failure has spread in the past few years.
After 50 years of trying to use jail as a deterrent, and using 30 year old legislation as a basis, surely it is time an Irish government looked at a different approach.
Perhaps the next government will address drug policy by changing the framework and the ideas it is based on. However I’ll let you chose the appropriate words for the likelihood of this happening.
Although looking at the latest opinion polls, we could have a government made up of new and surprising elements in the next few years. This could see us with a government more open to a change in policy.
Arguably it is up to the activists here to force this change, to both change opinion on the ground and ultimately in the Dail and Seanad chambers.
Luckily this effort seems well underway.
Do you agree or disagree? Feel free to leave a comment below