Gary Gannon TD

The decriminalisation of drug use must be accompanied by a health-led response to addiction and a comprehensive plan to tackle poverty and deprivation, according to Social Democrats TD Gary Gannon.

Deputy Gannon made his comments during today’s Dáil debate on the Misuse of Drugs (Cannabis Regulation Bill 2022), which is being supported by the Social Democrats.

He said:

“For some time, my party has favoured a health-based approach to drugs. That is why we believe a policy of decriminalisation should be pursued in respect of the possession of drugs for personal use.

“It is welcome that the report of the Citizens’ Assembly on Drug Use also reflects this position and includes a recommendation that a comprehensive health-led response should be implemented.

“We know that turning people with addiction issues into criminals only serves to demonise them and deny them future opportunities. This is particularly true of communities with high levels of deprivation and disadvantage, which are disproportionately impacted by the negative effects of drug use.

“The relationship between poverty and drug-related harms is well-established, but it’s not enough to just recognise this fact – the Government must act. The war on drugs must be replaced with a war on the causes of poverty.

“At the sharp end of drug-related issues is the homelessness crisis – 11 per cent of drug-related deaths in 2020 occurred in homeless accommodation.

“The evidence indicates that decriminalisation helps reduce the health risks associated with drug use. However, this alone cannot achieve a significant reduction. Any legislative change must occur in tandem with a range of other responses, including timely and adequate inpatient and outpatient addiction services.

“Such services must be supportive, not punitive, to allow those who continue to use drugs or relapse to retain access to them.

“It is now incumbent on the Government to urgently establish a special Oireachtas committee to examine the recommendations of the Citizens’ Assembly on Drug Use and bring forward legislative proposals. The cannabis bill being debated here today could be considered in that context.

“This committee must be established without delay. Otherwise, lives will continue to be ruined and lost under a system that criminalises what we know to be a health issue.”

January 31, 2024

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