The public is way ahead of politicians when it comes to drug policy reform.
That's the view of Labour TD Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, as a new poll shows half of adults are in favour of decriminalising drugs.
If the law was changed, people would not be prosecuted for being caught in possession of small amounts of drugs such as cannabis or cocaine.
The government this week agreed to establish a Citizens’ Assembly on Drugs Use.
The Assembly will be asked to consider the legislative, policy and operational changes the State could make to significantly reduce the harmful impacts of illicit drugs on individuals, families, communities and wider society.
"Clearly the people are much more in tune with the reality on the ground than some politicians are."
Deputy Ó Ríordáin, who is a member of the Oireachtas Justice committee, says that the Citizens' Assembly offers an historic opportunity to make a radical change.
"Clearly the people are much more in tune with the reality on the ground than some politicians are", he said.
"They understand the differentiation between decriminalisation and legalisation, but they also know, because many Irish people have drug users in their own families, the damaging effects that criminalisation can have on an individual."
Deputy Ó'Riordáin believes that Ireland's current drug policy is only harming people and a more holistic approach would be more effective.
He says prosecuting people for personal use is expensive and often does more harm than good.
"There's no point in having people in court for the possession of small amounts of drugs that they're actually addicted to", he said.
"What we need for that person to be talking to is a nurse, a counsellor or a doctor, not to be talking to a guard or a judge in a courtroom.
"And if it was somebody in our own family who had a drug use issue, you wouldn't ring the guards immediately, you'd want the person to be dealing with somebody from the medical profession."
'Pretending we don't have a problem'
It is not only opposition parties that are calling for radical drug policy reform.
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.
Government TDs James Lawless and Paul McAuliffe have called for the legalisation of drugs in Ireland – warning that the war on drugs was not working.
"You don’t need a solicitor or a guard, you need a doctor."
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.
On Newstalk Breakfast, 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.
Main image shows Labour Party education spokesperson Aodhán Ó Ríordáin. Picture by: Leah Farrell / RollingNews.ie