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03 September 2023 – On the final day of this weekend’s fourth meeting of the Citizens’ Assembly on Drugs Use in Malahide, Co. Dublin, the 100 Assembly members considered a range of options and issues in relation to drugs policy and legislation. Members heard from speakers advocating for a range of different approaches to legislative change, and from a panel of speakers with diverse expertise in drugs policy, criminology and legislation.

In a workshop session, members considered a series of possible alternative approaches to legislative issues, ranging from keeping or adjusting the status quo to various options involving dissuasion, diversion, depenalisation, decriminalisation and legalisation.

The workshop session was designed to help members clarify the type of questions they might ballot on before finalising their report and recommendations to the Oireachtas. The Assembly will continue to deliberate on these issues through the final two meetings of the Assembly in late September and mid-October.

Speaking about the weekend’s meeting and the task facing members in the coming weeks, the Chair of the Citizens’ Assembly on Drugs Use, Paul Reid, said, “We are now two-thirds of the way through our work and members are beginning to focus on outcomes. Through the four meetings to date we have heard from over 50 speakers and received 800 separate submissions from members of the public on the issue of how we can reduce the harm caused by drugs use. There is clearly a huge amount of expertise, opinion, and interest in our work.

“But now we must concentrate on what recommendations we are going to make to our legislators in our final report. In doing so we have to consider the range of options available to us and begin to shape what any potential changes to Ireland’s drugs laws will look like. That is why we have debated these five models, although members are in no way bound to these examples and are entirely free to shape them as they see fit when we make our final decisions.

“Alongside this, it is becoming clear from the discussions that our recommendations will include appropriate implementation of all the laws and policies that already exist. There is an evident mood of frustration among members that measures such as the Health Diversion Programme that was agreed by Government in 2019 and would allow Gardai to divert those caught with drugs to the health system has not yet been implemented. This must be part of the solution along with any new approach that is recommended.

“I want to thank all members and speakers for their work and participation to date and look forward to continuing our important work over the next two meetings.”

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