Thursday 15 November 2018

Nearly two thirds of 2017 drug offences were 'possession for personal use' - advocacy group

CityWide Drugs Crisis Campaign says resources used to deal with such offences could be used to tackle criminal gangs

The CityWide Drugs Crisis Campaign is urging members of the public to make submissions to the Department of Health’s Working Group on Alternative Approaches to possession of drugs for personal use. (stock photo)
The CityWide Drugs Crisis Campaign is urging members of the public to make submissions to the Department of Health’s Working Group on Alternative Approaches to possession of drugs for personal use. (stock photo)

Kyle Ewald

Possession of drugs for personal use made up nearly three quarters of recorded drug offences in 2017, tying up resources that could be used to tackle criminal gangs, according to a national advocacy organisation.

The CityWide Drugs Crisis Campaign—a group advocating for the decriminalisation of possession of drugs for personal use—is urging members of the public to make submissions to the Department of Health’s Working Group on Alternative Approaches to possession of drugs for personal use.

The call comes following the extension of the deadline for submissions to the working group after it received "unprecedented interest" with over 14,000 submissions to date.

Supporters of the campaign gathered today to speak about the cause, including senators Aodhain Ó Ríordain and Lynn Ruane, journalist Anne Buckley, Gerard Rowe of Belong To Drug and Alcohol Service and Marcus Keane of the Ana Liffey Drug Project.

Ms Buckley—who struggled with addiction her past—shared her reasons for support of change in drug legislation: "We know it doesn’t work. Like kids growing up today, drugs are part of society. Old Ireland doesn’t like that, but it is. It’s part of the world’s big pharmaceutical take on lifestyle today.

"We need to face up to what’s happening and stop pushing it under the carpet and stop holding people who are already suffering, who understand trauma which is where resources need to go-trauma therapy."

Mr McVerry said decriminalisation of drugs will have a positive effect on the homeless population as well and "form a better relationship between the homeless community and Gardaí". 

The veteran homelessness advocate also spoke about the "ridiculous" enforcement of the current drug legislation that he has witnessed over the years, including a case in which a young man was brought to court for possession of marijuana that was valued at €2.

CityWide Coordinater Anna Quigley spoke about the objections to their campaign, often resulting from confusing decriminalisation with legislation: "What criminalisation means is that a person found in possession of drugs for personal use will no longer be treated as a criminal or given a criminal conviction and will instead be referred to health and social services.

"This is not the same as legalisation, as the drugs trade remains illegal and subject to all of the criminal laws that currently apply and no drug that is currently illegal will be made legal."

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