Prohibition Doesn’t Work: Time for a Health-Led Approach

31 January 2024

Labour’s Justice Spokesperson Aodhán Ó Riordáin TD was speaking today in the Dáil during the Misuse of Drugs (Cannabis Regulation) Bill 2022.

Deputy Ó Riordáin said

“The prevailing policy of criminalisation disproportionately impacts the poor and less powerful. It dehumanises and denigrates those grappling with addiction. We must recognise that addiction is a complex issue, not a moral failing. The conservative coalition’s ‘war on drugs’ is making some wealthy while leaving countless individuals in despair, highlighting a dire misunderstanding of addiction’s nature.

“It is high time we shift our focus. The costly prosecution of individuals for personal drug use not only fails but often exacerbates the harm. Decriminalisation is an opportunity, allowing the Gardaí to concentrate on tackling drug dealers and criminal gangs that perpetuate the cycle of harm.

“People from all walks of life use drugs, yet it is those without power who find themselves entangled in the criminal justice system. This disparity is a stark reminder of the inequality perpetuated by current drug policies.

“Labour stands firmly in support of the Misuse of Drugs (Cannabis Regulation) Bill 2022. We are calling for a community-based health-led alternative that targets the adverse health, social, and economic consequences of drug use. This approach prioritises harm reduction services, addressing issues like disease transmission and overdoses.

“Our commitment extends to the decriminalisation of cannabis. It is a crucial step toward recognising the need for a nuanced and effective drug policy. It’s time for Ireland to catch up with evolving global perspectives on drug use, moving beyond punitive measures towards comprehensive solutions.

“It is time for a progressive approach that reflects the realities of drug use and focuses on creating a healthier and more equitable society.”

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