As part of a “radical cultural shift” in the approach to drug addiction, Ireland is planning to decriminalize drugs, making the posession of small amounts of cocaine, ecstasy, heroin, and other controlled substances legal. However, it would still remain a crime to sell or profit off of illegal drugs, but the use of illegal drugs would be legalized.
Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, Minister with the Responsibility for National Drug Strategy, is planning on speaking to the London School of Economics on Monday to address this fundamental change in Ireland’s drug policy.
For too long failed drug policies have criminalized addicts and have kept them locked up in institutions when really what they need is guidance, compassion, and treatment. Addiction is an extreme example of loneliness. The brain is craving human connection, while the drug lifestyle perpetuates the further ostracizing of the addict: keeping them on the fringes of society. This becomes a vicious cycle and also creates a huge debt for society because the addict cannot get a job due to a criminal record, and has no choice but to resort to criminal activity to support their habit.
Compassion must be taken in regards to this issue and that is what they are working on doing. As far as possible, drug addiction should be removed from the criminal justice system. “I am firmly of the view that there needs to be a cultural shift in how we regard substance misuse if we are to break this cycle and make a serious attempt to tackle drug and alcohol addiction,” said Mr Ó Ríordáin.
This radical shift is in wake of a leaked report from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime that indicates calling for the decriminalization for public consumption of drugs on public health and human rights grounds. When we look at prosecution vs harm reduction, the odds are in favor of the latter. According to a report by the Open Society global drug policy program, harm reduction programs like “safe consumption rooms in Amsterdam” and needle exchange programs, which the Netherlands pioneered, have caused the lowest rate of HIV among young people, and the lowest rate of problem drug use in Europe.
When we look at the failed drug war in the US, which has caused federal and state goverments a trillion dollars in the last forty years footed by US tax paying citizens, how can we justify the criminality of drugs any longer? Ireland is looking at this in the right way; only time will tell how these policies will be beneficial. Looking at other countries, I would say there is a good chance that this might be one of the best decisions Ireland has made.