Sunday 16 April 2023 – The Citizens’ Assembly on Drugs Use has concluded its inaugural meeting at the Grand Hotel in Malahide, where the 100 members today heard from a range of speakers addressing the national, European, and international perspectives on drugs use across the issues of prevention, treatment, rehabilitation, human rights, criminal justice, and organised crime.
Today’s meeting followed yesterday’s session that focussed on drugs use patterns and trends, the harmful impacts of drugs use, and a ‘person-centred perspective’ on drugs use. Members were also presented with an outline of a draft work programme for the Assembly over the next six months and how it will conduct its work towards preparation of a final report and recommendations to be presented to the Taoiseach and Houses of the Oireachtas by the end of this year.
The Assembly will hold its next meeting on the weekend of 13/14 May in Dublin Castle, where members will further explore issues around the impact of drugs use on individuals, including active engagement with representatives from drugs treatment and rehabilitation services and centres.
Speaking at the close of today’s meeting, the Assembly Chairperson, Paul Reid, said that this weekend’s discussions demonstrated the breadth and complexity of the issues that the Assembly will consider over the next six months, but welcomed members’ understanding and determination to produce informed recommendations.
Mr Reid commented, “We have now begun the most ambitious and far-reaching discussion on drugs use and national drugs policy that has ever taken place in Ireland. This Assembly has the opportunity to be transformative. Clearly our members recognise this and I want to thank them for their enthusiasm, engagement, and eagerness to learn.
“This weekend we have explored a wide range of issues including why people take drugs, the impact of drugs on individuals, their families and communities, how drugs are regulated, and the pervasiveness of drugs in our society. We have also heard about national and international drugs policy. It is crucial that we have this information as a baseline to begin to explore specific issues.
“One issue that has clearly emerged this weekend is the issue of the language we use in regard to drugs use. Whether it relates to how we speak about people who use drugs and how this contributes to stigmatisation or the differences between decriminalisation and legalisation of drugs, there are clearly major issues in how we speak about drugs use. This is something that I am keen to address in our work over the coming months.
“Yesterday afternoon we also had an informative and at times emotional discussion focussing on a ‘person-centred perspective’ on drugs use. That session brought it home to us how individuals have to be at the centre of this discussion. That is why we are devoting our next weekend meeting entirely to this issue, where we will hear from those at the frontline of drugs treatment and rehabilitation services. I thank members for their work this weekend and look forward to our next meeting in May.”