It remains “really hard to call” what recommendations the Citizens’ Assembly on Drugs Use will make, Chair Paul Reid has told Newstalk Breakfast.
The Assembly was convened to consider how the Government could “significantly reduce the harmful impacts of illicit drugs” on Irish society.
Today, The Irish Times reports that the Assembly will recommend “decriminalisation but not legalisation of some drugs”.
Speaking to Newstalk Breakfast, Mr Reid denied this was the case.
“There’s a whole range of scenarios that may emerge,” he said.
“It’s all in the hands of the 100 Assembly members - including myself - and a whole range of [recommendations could be made, from] retaining the status quo to the other end of the spectrum - which is legalisation - and anything in between.
“It’s all to play for in the Assembly but I think what we can say for definite is there’s definitely a mood for change and a strong feeling amongst Assembly members that the current status quo isn’t working, it is causing some harm and we need to look at what we can do differently.”
'Any change has risks'
The assembly has met regularly since April and members have sat through 120 presentations and almost 200 hours of deliberations.
One group that has made a submission is An Garda Síochána, with members outlining their concerns about any deviation from the status quo.
“They made it very clear their position and the reasons why they feel making any change has risks,” he said.
“They outlined some reasons around Ireland becoming a tourism destination for drugs and potentially reducing their powers of search, so that was their view of it.”
Some doctors speaking to the Assembly raised concerns that legalisation could lead to increased drug use, with associated impacts on public health.
“We’ve also had other medics who would say the current [situation] is sending people around the spiral,” Mr Reid said.
“One of the things that’s certainly come through is, we know that drugs are quite pervasive across all the country but we equally know that it hurts marginalised communities more.
“It’s not just the drugs issue, it’s the whole issue of social deprivation.”
Overall, Mr Reid feels the Assembly’s final recommendation is “really hard to call” but the desire for change is strong.
“From everything they have heard and experienced - particularly the testimonies and the lived experiences - there was a sense that something has to be different,” he said.
“If we just keep doing the same thing all of the time, we’re going to get the same responses and there’s going to be continued harm through drugs and drug addiction.”
Members of the Citizens’ Assembly will be balloted on October 21st and their recommendations sent to the Government for consideration.
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Main image: Split of Paul Reid and a drug user.