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Drug laws should change

Wednesday, 27th June, 2018 4:32pm

Lobbyists for the decriminalisation of drugs brought their fight to Leeside this week where a public meeting heard why possessing drugs for personal use should not be a criminal offence.

The town hall meeting held in St Peter’s on North Main Street on Tuesday heard how a public health approach needs to be implemented and why Ireland should follow in the footsteps of Portugal and decriminalise drugs.

This would mean that people caught by An Garda Síochána in possession of drugs wouldn’t appear before the courts but instead would be interviewed by a panel to see if they need addiction treatment.

This has been the case in Portugal since July 2001.

The event was organised by the Ana Liffey Drug Project (ALDP) along with the London School of Economics and Hot Press. It coincides with an ongoing consultation from the Department of Health on the issue which has received thousands of submissions from citizens across the country.

One of the speakers at the event was Kate Gibney, Co-Ordinator the Regional Drug & Alcohol Task Force, which covers Cork and Kerry.  

She told the Cork Independent: “Every day our courts are filled with people that really should be in the health service as oppose to the criminal justice system.”

Ms Gibney said that if drugs are decriminalised, resources will need to be made available so that people can access treatment in a timely manner.

“It’s a wonderful idea and from what I’ve seen, Portugal has seen the benefits, overdoses have been reduced significantly. Early intervention would the key. It needs to be funded appropriately. If something like this was to come into play then there would need to be a big investment by the Government in relation to drug and alcohol services,” she added.

Ms Gibney also spoke about the ‘good’ side of taking drugs too. She explained: “Scaremongering doesn’t work. I previously worked in an adolescent drug treatment centre and the important thing was to give them accurate information around substances and the harms they have. But I found that if the young person could talk about what their use provided for them, like reducing anxiety or increasing their confidence and it’s important that they are able to talk about that. It’s important to give them the space to talk about what’s ‘good’ about drug use.”

The other speakers included Marcus Keane, ALDP Head of Policy and Tony Duffin, CEO of ALDP, as well as Dr John Collins, Director of the International Drug Policy at the London School of Economics and Aoife Frances, Policy Officer at the National Family Support Network.

Dr Collins said: “A lot of things people think about drugs and drug use are simply not supported by what we know from research. For example, people often think that criminalising minor offences like possession ‘sends a clear message’ and discourages people from taking drugs.

“This is simply not the case – in an open society like Ireland, criminalising people who use drugs does not significantly affect rates of drug use. What it does do, however, is further stigmatise people, acting as a barrier to progress and change in their lives.”

 

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