Ireland’s drug laws are written to suit 'people who like to pretend we don’t have a drug problem', according to a Fianna Fáil TD.
It comes after the Tánaiste Micheál Martin signalled his support for the decriminalisation of drugs saying he supports calls from his own TDs for a health-led approach.
That came after TDs James Lawless and Paul McAuliffe called for the legalisation of drugs in Ireland – warning that the war on drugs was not working.
The TDs suggested ‘off-licence-style’ outlets could distribute drugs – ensuring they are clean and limiting the ability of drug gangs to profit from their sale.
They urged the Taoiseach to deliver on the Programme for Government promise to hold a Citizens’ Assembly on Drug Use and to begin the process by appointing a chair.
On Newstalk Breakfast this morning, Deputy McAuliffe said Ireland needs to focus on drugs as a health issue, not a criminal one.
“If you have an illness - and addiction is an illness - you don’t need a solicitor or a guard, you need a doctor, a nurse or a counsellor,” he said.
He said it would be up to the Citizens’ Assembly to offer recommendations on whether Ireland should decriminalise and legalise.
Under the decriminalisation approach, people caught with small quantities of drugs would not be prosecuted – but instead would be linked in with health services and potentially face fines.
Under the legalisation approach, drugs would be legally sold in Irish shops, either by the State or by private enterprises.
“Portugal has a model where they have decriminalised the person and America has a model where they have effectively opened it up to the capitalist market and they have it for sale,” he said.
“So we have to tease those issues out but we need to start with a health-led approach and a compassionate approach and an approach that recognises that people often self-medicate their own pain.”
He warned that Ireland’s current drug laws ignore the situation in towns and cities around the country.
“The current policy suits people who like to pretend we don’t have a drugs problem,” he said.
“Drugs are being sold on every street corner in Ireland. Drugs are a very big part of many communities and a very hidden part of other communities.”
Also on the show, Professor Bobby Smyth, Consultant Psychiatrist with the HSE’s Adolescent Addiction Service, suggested the legalisation of marijuana in many parts of the US was “driven by money rather than by medicine”.
He said the American Medical Association and some state medical societies have openly stated their opposition to legalisation.
“Doctors recognise that what happens when you legalise is, that use does normalise,” he said.
“You get a commercial player involved, their agenda is clearly to generate more customers and what’s happening is that is actually working and you end up with more addiction.
“So, what happens is, the health problems escalate.”
He said he is open to the idea of decriminalisation but is interested to learn what form of penalty mechanism is being proposed.
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