Ireland moves to decriminalize drugs for personal use
Ireland’s National Drugs Safety minister Aodhán Ó Ríordáin has expressed his plans to decriminalize personal use of marijuana, cocaine, and heroin within the next year. While it will still remain a crime in Ireland to sell, distribute, or profit from illegal substances, the radical plans are designed to remove the stigma surrounding drug addiction and make treatment more accessible for those who seek it.
“I am firmly of the view there needs to be a cultural shift in how we regard substance misuse if we are to break this cycle and make a serious attempt to tackle drug and alcohol addiction,” Ríordáin told The Irish Times. “Research has shown that the use of supervised injecting centers is associated with self-reported reductions in injecting risk behaviors.”
The new plan would also attempt to reshape societal views on drug addicts as sick, rather than criminals. “Too often those with drug problems suffer from stigma, due to a lack of understanding or public education about the nature of addiction,” he continues. “This stigma can be compounded for those who end up with a criminal record due to possession of drugs for their own use.”
Ireland’s first injection centers will open in Dublin in early 2016, and gradually roll out across the country in Cork, Galway, and Limerick. The centers will be “clinically-controlled environments” that will prevent addicts from getting caught up in the criminal justice system. To help with initial implementation technicalities, the Irish government has been in talks with the Portuguese government, who decriminalized all drugs in 2001. There has been an overall drop in drug usage in Portugal ever since.
Ríordáin’s proposal arrives just days after more than 500 attendees were arrested at two Halloween weekend festivals in Los Angeles, primarily on drug charges. For the rising number of Americans calling for sensible drug policy reform, Ireland may prove yet another example of the benefits of decriminalization.