Leading Irish drug project, Ana Liffey recently launched its campaign ‘Safer from Harm’ in collaboration with the London School of Economics, to emphasis that health, not criminal justice, should be at the core of the State’s response to the possession of drugs for personal use.

Fianna Fáil Spokesperson for National Drug Policy & Urban Affairs, John Curran TD said, “A lot has changed in the 40+ years since the consumption of opioid’s such as heroin was first made a crime in our country. The heroin epidemic of the 1980’s has been and gone while new, arguably more dangerous patterns in drug use have replaced it.

“It is fair to say that drugs were once only considered an issue for those in lower socio economic, city suburbs. Decades on and it’s equally fair to say that there isn’t a single community in Ireland left unscathed by the wrath of drug use – be it the sale, supply or the damage that addiction inflicts on an individual and their loved ones.

“In an ideal world no legislative response whatsoever would be necessary but the crisis of public drug use, the associated gangland criminality and open drug dealing requires us to explore possible solutions to a broadening public health crisis that we can no longer ignore.

“I am aware that the proposal to decriminalise personal possession will be met with resistance or at very least deep scepticism but decriminalisation is not to be confused with legalisation. It’s primary purpose would be to ensure those in caught in possession of small quantities of drugs for personal use can enter rehabilitation/education programmes rather than the Criminal Justice System. I am conscious too that there are many ethical considerations but one thing is certain; drugs are impacting every town, every village and every household nationwide.

“So we either ask ourselves difficult questions or we continue to leave very vulnerable people suffering in addiction at the helm of merciless drug dealers. The traditional methods of prohibition are not working and we need to listen to the experts in this area to inform ourselves of the challenges ahead.

The Dublin Mid-West TD added, “Those that point to Portugal believe decriminalising drugs will be a perfect panacea but it has encountered some unwelcome implications too. What we certainly can take note of from the Portuguese model is that there is no consummate solution to a crisis in drugs.

“Any drastic change in policy will require investment, not that that should not deter a State from protecting public health, but to date this Government has barely invested in a local and regional response. The communities most impacted are essentially left to try cope with being controlled by the sale and supply of drugs.

“The whole criminal justice system could potentially benefit from a substantial change in law and yes proponents believe it would free up much needed Garda resources to take out the serious criminals and not the addicts. Those factors aside, treating addiction and problem drug use as a matter of public health can undoubtedly save lives.

“I intend on reaching out to my colleagues on the party’s Front Bench to consider their views on adopting a policy of decriminalisation,” he concluded.