Radical changes to drug laws in Ireland are on the way, with the likes of heroin, cocaine and cannabis set to be decriminalised and supervised injecting rooms for addicts introduced.
Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, the minister in charge of the National Drugs Strategy, is expected to announce the landmark plans in a speech at the London School of Economics today and he hopes the new bill will be enacted early next year.
He also vows to take users out of the criminal justice system as part of a radical cultural shift in the approach to drug addiction which hopes to remove the stigma surrounding the issue and show more compassion towards addicts.
Speaking to the Irish Times, Ó Ríordáin said:
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.
Research has shown that the use of supervised injecting centres is associated with self-reported reductions in injecting risk behaviours.
The medically supervised injecting rooms would not be “free-for-all” type facilities, but “clinically controlled environments” aimed at “hard-to-reach populations” like the homeless.
Ó Ríordáin hopes the first injecting rooms would be opened in Dublin, followed by Cork, Galway and Limerick.
He also added there was now a “strong consensus that drugs across the board should be decriminalised”, something this change in strategy may be a step towards. However, Ó Ríordáin was keen to stress it would remain a crime to sell, distribute or profit from illicit drugs.
The move would be a huge step in how nations deal with the issue of drug addiction and, with reports that the United Nations may be considering calling on governments around the world to decriminalise all drugs, it seems a shift in attitude may be rapidly approaching.
Now, if only David Cameron and the UK government were on the same page…
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