Today the Justice Committee issued its report following the consultation process which sought submissions from the public on drug policy
The Committee also visited Portugal this year and reported back positively on its approach
Only one of the 87 submissions received were opposed to following the Portuguese model. Likewise the public hearings also saw broad support expressed for a change in policy
The report issued today “strongly recommends” that Ireland change its drug policy so it is dealt by “a civil and administrative” approach rather than a criminal one.
The report outlines that an emphasis would be placed on harm reduction and rehabilitative policies.
The report also suggests that any change will allow law enforcement to focus on tackling traffickers and dealers more, as its predominately personal possession offences which are dealt with now.
The Committee proposed the following recommendations based on the evidence presented to it.
1. The Committee strongly recommends the introduction of a harm reducing and rehabilitative approach, whereby the possession of a small amount of illegal drugs for personal use, could be dealt with by the way of a civil/administrative approach and rather than via the criminal justice route.
2. The Committee recommends that discretion for the application of this approach would remain with An Garda Síochána/Health Providers in respect of the way in which an individual in possession of small amounts of drugs for personal use might be treated.
3. The Committee recommends that any harm reducing and rehabilation approach be applied on a case-by-case basis, with appropriately resourced services available to those affected, including resources for assessment (similar to the Dissuasion Committees used in Portugal) and the effective treatment of individuals concerned.
4. The Committee draws attention to the success of ‘informal’ interaction with users when referred to the ‘Dissuasion Committees’ in Portugal and recommends that such an approach should be employed in Ireland if the recommendations in this report are to be adopted.
5. The Committee recommends that resources be invested in training and education on the effects of drugfs and that appropriate treatment be made available to those who need to avail of same. The Committee feels that out-of-school ‘informal’ interaction by Youth Services could have a major role to play in this context.
6. The Committee recommends that research be undertaken to ensure that the adoption of any alternative approach be appropriate in an Irish context.
7. The Committee recommends that in addition to other measures, enactment of legislation in relation to Spent Convictions be prioritised.
The report is due to be forwarded to the Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald and also the the Drugs Minister Aodhan O’Riordain
Whether the recommendations are to be adopted remain to be seen, but the sentiment expressed in recent times is certainly much different that ever before.
With the new Misuse Of Drugs Act due and also a new National Drugs Strategy, it could be a few interesting months ahead.