On average, over 70% of convictions for drug offences are for possession for personal use
A recent survey carried out by Red C has shown there is 49% support among the national population for the decriminalisation of drugs for personal use.
The poll, carried out for Citywide - Drugs Crisis Campaign shows 49% of people are in favour of changing the law to allow for decriminalisation while 51% are not.
The poll also shows that 56% of men and 58% of younger people between 18 and 34 are more supportive of a move towards decriminalisation. The results of the survey were presented at a Citywide Seminar today entitled “A Health Led Approach to Drug Use in Ireland.”
Instead of handing down a criminal conviction,the decriminalisation of drugs would allow for warnings and fines to handed out or for the offender to be directed to drug awareness classes or to appropriate treatment.
This is entirely different to the concept of “legalizing” drugs where using, buying, importing and selling drugs would be regulated by the state in the same way as alcohol and tobacco are, according to Citywide.
Niamh Eastwood, Executive Director of Release, the national centre of expertise on drugs and drugs law in the UK, said that punishing people who use drugs as criminals is a tremendous waste of state resources and a penalty that is wholly disproportionate to the act.
“Ireland currently has one of the highest drug-related death rates in Europe,” she said.
“It is impossible to deny that a criminal justice approach to drug use contributes to such shockingly high figures - punitive approaches lead to poor education around safer drug use and reinforce societal stigma, which can deter the people who need help from accessing health, harm reduction or treatment services.”
“Research into over 25 jurisdictions across the world that have implemented decriminalisation shows that, when done well, decriminalisation can bring excellent social, economic and health benefits to society.”
“Furthermore, despite what critics of reforming drug laws believe, this approach does not result in increased drug use but instead reduces problematic drug use," she added.
Speaking to Newstalk's Sean Defoe, Fergus McCabe from the Citywide Drugs Campaign thinks it would be a good move saying: " One of the key things about it is if you adopt decriminalisation approach you actually free up extra police and garda resources to hit the main culprits who, most people will agree, are the dealers and people making significant money rather than punishing in many cases either young people just experimenting or small -time dealers or pushers who have a habit."