Should Ireland get rid of criminal penalties for drug possession?

June 11, 2018

Should Ireland get rid of criminal penalties for drug possession? It has been successful elsewhere.

A TOWN HALL meeting will be held this week in Dublin on the subject of looking into a health-led approach towards drug use in Ireland.

The event – which is organised by drugs NGO the Ana Liffey Drug Project – will look into what a health-led approach to tackling drug use would look like.

The government last year launched its National Drugs Strategy, which is titled Reducing Harm, Supporting Recovery. The strategy explicitly supports moving towards a “health-led response to drug and alcohol use in Ireland”.

This would be a move towards efforts at reducing harm of drug use through health means.

It is currently a criminal offence for anyone to possess illegal drugs in Ireland. Anyone found to be in possession of prohibited narcotics can be prosecuted before the courts and potentially receive a criminal conviction.

This could range from a fine to a prison sentence.

In November of last year, junior minister with responsibility for the strategy Catherine Byrne Working Group to consider alternative approaches to the possession of drugs for personal use.

The Town Hall meeting this week coincides with the launch of a public consultation on the matter, where Irish citizens can give their views on Ireland’s current laws and whether they need to change.

The consultation takes the form of a questionnaire in which the public is queried about their attitudes to illegal drug use and whether they think criminal penalties should be more lenient.


One such alternative to criminalising drug possession is decriminalisation.

The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) defines decriminalisation as when the status of a criminal offence is reclassified as non-criminal.

So although possession of illegal drugs would remain prohibited and will be stopped by police, it would not be treated as a criminal offence.

This approach has been adopted by other countries in the world as a way of addressing high levels of problem use.

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Source: The Journal, Cormac Fitzgerald, 11/06/18

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