The Republic of Ireland is set to decriminalise small amounts of drugs found on people by their police, the Gardai. Last week the Irish newspaper The Journal reported that Irish drugs minister Aodhan Ó Ríordáin said in a speech to the London School of Economics that, “I am in favour of a decriminalisation model, but it must be one that suits the Irish context and be evidence based.”
This follows a group of senior officials meeting in August. According to The Journal, “In August, a ‘think tank’ meeting of front-line agencies and health service workers convened by the Dublin TD found a wide consensus that drugs should be decriminalised across the board.”
This would follow the so-called Portuguese model where people are treated for their addiction rather than punished. The Journal reported, “Recent figures show there are three overdose deaths per 1,000,000 citizens in Portugal. In Ireland, figures from 2012 put the number of overdose deaths at over 70 per 1,000,000 of the population.”
UK followed Ireland
The current harm rates of 70 per million in Ireland are under one of the toughest anti drug regimes in the world, with a law that basically states that unless it is medically prescribed, coffee, cigarettes or alcohol, you could be arrested for using it.
The UK is pushing through a new law that apes the old Irish policy. The Psychoactive Substances Bill will only allow people to use substances that are named in the new law. According to the BBC, “The Psychoactive Substances Bill, which follows similar legislation in Ireland, introduces a blanket ban on the production, distribution, sale and supply of legal highs.”
It seems that the UK is taking an ever tougher stance even as the very country it points to as a success is looking at a new way of tackling drug use because its own policy has failed. Many European countries are taking a soft stance on recreational drug use, as they realise that throwing people in prison just doesn’t work. Across the Atlantic it was announced last week that Canada would be taking steps to legalise cannabis use. The UK indeed seems to be behind even the US, that once led the world in the ‘War on Drugs’ yet is now sliding towards decriminalisation or even legalisation of psychoactive substances in many states.
During the Rugby World Cup, a joke slipped out when for the first time in the Cup’s history an England team didn’t get out of the first round. “An Englishman walked into a pub. At this point a joke would say that there was a Scotsman, Welshman and an Irishman in there but they were all playing rugby unlike the Englishman.” Where the joke usually stands up the Irishman the Englishman is the brunt of this one. The same idea could be applied to our drugs policy – it certainly seems that the UK government is behind the curve with drugs laws and is fighting an outdated, ideological battle against a war that has been won in many cases by common sense.
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