Seanad to debate decriminalising drug possession

The new bill would also establish a Drug Dissuasion Service

Seanad to debate decriminalising drug possession

Drug user | Image: PA images

The Seanad is set to debate the decriminalisation of the possession of controlled drugs for personal use.

A Private Members’ Bill in Seanad Éireann entitled the 'Controlled Drugs and Harm Reduction Bill 2017'will be introduced by Independent Senator for Trinity College Lynn Ruane. 

The bill would establish a Drug Dissuasion Service to case-manage persons found in possession of controlled drugs and divert people away from the courts.

It would also establish a system of harm reduction measures including drug awareness, drug rehabilitation and community engagement programmes.

The bill is co-signed and seconded by former Minister of State for the National Drugs Strategy Senator Aodhán Ó Ríordáin and is supported by the Labour Party, the Green Party and a significant number of independent senators.

Criminal Justice System 

Speaking about the bill, Senator Ruane said: "As a former addiction programme developer and community worker in west Dublin, I have seen first-hand the destructive impact of the criminalisation of drugs and how it has destroyed lives and whole communities.

"We can no longer continue to ruin the prospects of our young people and send people who use drugs to prison, which effectively serves as the criminalisation of drug addiction.

"The criminal justice system is no place to deal with the complex issues of drug use and drug abuse.

"I am introducing this legislation because we need to recognise the reality that people take drugs and that our response can and should be targeted, well-informed by evidence and one that will ensure that people get the help that they need."

Meanwhile, Labour Party Senator Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, who is seconding the legislation, said "This is one of the most important bills that this Oireachtas will see.

"We are putting humanity back into our drugs policy and recognising addiction is about disconnection, it’s not just about drugs."