Major changes have been announced as to how possession of drugs for personal use is dealt with.
It will see, what the Government calls, a "health-led approach" to the issue.
On the first occasion, a person would be referred by An Garda Síochána to the Health Service Executive (HSE) for a health screening and brief intervention.
The HSE will provide staff in community healthcare organisations to deliver this service.
On the second occasion, the Gardaí would have discretion to issue an adult caution.
The adult caution scheme allows Gardaí to issue a formal caution, instead of pursuing a prosecution, in relation to a number of offences.
The extension of the adult caution scheme gives the option of diverting appropriate cases away from the criminal justice system.
The decision comes after a report of a working group to consider alternative approaches to the possession of drugs for personal use.
The group was set up under the national drugs strategy.
"A helping hand, not handcuffs"
Health Minister Simon Harris says: "For far too long, we have only looked at drug use from a criminal justice perspective.
"Addiction has impacted so many families and many communities. It is essential we look beyond the labels society forces on people with addiction, look to the person and how the system can help them.
"Today is the start of a new approach. One that offers people a helping hand, not handcuffs.
"One that offers a person a second chance. I strongly believe this will help us battle drug addiction and ultimately save lives."
Minister Harris adds: "This approach will not decriminalise drug use - it is a mechanism to defer people to health and social services for help and support."
Minister of State with responsibility for the National Drugs Strategy Catherine Byrne says the move is "a hugely important step in developing a public health approach to drug use in Ireland".
Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan also welcomed the decision: "While we seek to help vulnerable people who use drugs, we will continue the relentless pursuit of drug dealers and I intend to develop an increasingly punitive approach to those who seek to involve children in drug related crime."
"My officials are currently examining the potential to develop legislative proposals in this area, taking account of international best practice."
Minister Flanagan says he intends to examine the possibility of introducing a specific offence of grooming children - through inducements such as the provision of drugs or by other means for the commission of drug related crime - with a view to combating any potential exploitation of children.