January 12, 2019
Tony Duffin responds to an article in today’s Irish Times…
An increase in potency of any illicit drug is a serious concern, as it may lead to more harm to people who use drugs, particularly if they are accustomed to a less potent form of the substance. Obviously, the strength of an illicit drug is controlled by those who produce the drug and prepare it for sale. As the illicit drug market is, by its very nature, unregulated, the state has no control over the substances being sold. While our law enforcement agencies work tirelessly to reduce the flow of cannabis and other drugs, into the country, it is an impossible task and we know that only a fraction of the drugs entering the country are detected. Given that this is the case, we need smarter drug policies to reduce the harm being caused by drug use in Ireland. There is much debate internationally about the regulation of cannabis markets, and we have seen recent moves in this direction from countries like Canada and Uruguay. However, such steps are not in line with international law, and we are unlikely to see such liberalisation in Ireland anytime soon.
However, we can decriminalise people who use drugs – that is, deal with personal drug use as a health issue, not as a crime. This approach was strongly recommended by a cross-party Oireachtas committee in 2015, and is currently being considered by working group under the National Drug Strategy. We fully expect the working group to endorse the Oireachtas committee’s recommendations and look forward to the publication of their report. Over 20,000 people responded to the department of health’s public consultation on the matter, so we will also get a good insight into the public’s views on progressive drug policy, which will be interesting. Quite simply, we need to treat drug use as a health issue, and stop criminalising people who use drugs. Its stigmatising, expensive and ineffective. We can do much better.
Visit saferfromharm.ie for more info on the campaign to decriminalise people who use drugs in Ireland and please sign up for the #SaferFromHarm newsletter.