CITIZENS’ ASSEMBLY RECOMMENDS NEW ‘IRISH MODEL’ TO ADDRESS HARM CAUSED BY ILLICIT DRUS USE
36 recommendations agreed by Assembly members including decriminalisation of possession of drugs for personal use
Chair Paul Reid thanks members for most comprehensive and wide-ranging discussion on drugs policy that will be reported to the Oireachtas
22 October 2023 – The Citizens’ Assembly on Drugs Use has voted on and agreed 36 recommendations that will produce a new Irish model of legislation, policy and service to reduce the harm caused by illicit drugs use. The recommendations were agreed at the sixth and final meeting of the Citizens’ Assembly on Drugs Use in Malahide, Co. Dublin earlier today.
The agreed recommendations will now be compiled into a final report outlining the work of the Assembly over the six months since it first met in April this year, and will include summaries of the over 120 presentations, 200 hours of discussion, and 800 public submissions that were received.
The recommendations include significant changes to laws governing penalties for possession of drugs for personal use, effectively amounting to decriminalisation. This will mean an approach based on health-led interventions rather than through convictions via the criminal justice system.
Other key recommendations include greater responsibility and accountability for drugs policy at national level through the establishment of a dedicated Cabinet Committee on Drugs to be chaired by the Taoiseach, and increased funding for drugs treatment services alongside a greater focus on education about drugs use and prevention measures.
Through the course of the final meeting, members overwhelmingly agreed the majority of the 36 recommendations on six areas that followed the themes and issues under the Assembly’s terms of reference to produce proposals to address the harm caused by illicit drugs use. These themes were:
- Recovery and supporting people with problematic drugs use within the criminal justice system;
- Possession of drugs for personal use;
- Governance and Implementation;
- Funding and Resources, Service Design, Research;
- Reducing supply, prevention, protecting young people and communities, harm reduction;
- Innovation, research, referral of submissions.
The final report will be submitted to the Oireachtas by the end of this year and will also be presented to the Taoiseach by the Independent Chair Paul Reid.
Concluding the work of the Assembly, Paul Reid paid tribute to the work and dedication of all members and said they have made an important contribution to Irish life through their active participation in the Assembly process. He said it had been an honour and privilege to chair the Citizens’ Assembly on Drugs Use and said its recommendations have the potential to be transformative in the national approach to drugs use.
Paul Reid commented, “This has been the most comprehensive, wide-ranging, and representative discussion on all aspects of drugs use and drugs policy that has ever taken place in Ireland. As the Assembly’s work developed it was clear there was a mood for change and this is represented in the recommendations that have been agreed, including significant changes to how we treat and deal with possession of drugs for personal use.
“It was also a much-needed and long-overdue national conversation. The Assembly has produced an Irish model of drugs laws designed in the context of the issues and challenges we face. We heard of the devastating impact that drugs use on individuals, their families, and communities, and we have heard the voices and stories of those who work at the forefront of drugs treatment, drugs services, and drugs prevention. We have heard arguments for a new and radical approach, and we heard calls for the maintenance of the status quo.
“Ultimately, it will be up to the Oireachtas to implement what the Assembly has called for. But if they do, this will not only change the national policy and approach, it will also change people’s lives. For the better.
“I want to thank all members for their work and give them my commitment that I will take their report and recommendations to the Oireachtas and present their case for change.”