Relax laws on possession of drugs, urges Dáil committee
The Oireachtas Justice Committee is preparing to recommend the Government decriminalise the possession of small amounts of all drugs in a bid to alleviate pressure on garda resources and the courts from low level crime.
The committee - chaired by Fine Gael TD David Stanton - is expected to urge the Government to introduce drugs laws similar to those in Portugal. There possession of certain quantities of all illegal drugs - including cannabis, cocaine, and heroin - is no longer a crime.
It is still against the law to take and possess drugs in Portugal but offenders are treated similarly to motorists who breach traffic offences. Police have the power to prosecute but can also send drug users to special courts where criminal records are not handed down.
Instead, those caught in possession are given fines or forced to get medical treatment if addicted.
The Justice Committee's report, which will be given to Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald, will urge a similar system in Ireland.
Mr Stanton said he believed the model would free up garda and court resources to tackle drug dealers and traffickers rather than those using drugs recreationally.
"What we are talking about is radical and I don't think we could have had this discussion 10 years ago, but I think it is definitely a system we should seriously consider," he said.
"We should be targeting the serious dealers and traffickers and not spending our time and resources with some kid in the court system because they were caught with a joint," he added.
Mr Stanton and three committee members - Independent TD Finian McGrath, FG TD Alan Farrell and FG Senator Martin Conway - visited Portugal to examine the legal system.
Last week, the committee heard from Irish organisations that would be affected by a change to drug laws.