In the spirit of Portugal, it appears Ireland could become the next nation to decriminalize cannabis and other illicit substances in an effort to better control problems with addiction.
During a recent lecture at the London School of Economics, Ireland’s minister of National Drugs Strategy, Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, said that Ireland was about to undergo a “radical cultural shift” by working towards amending its drug policies in a way that would decriminalize the possession of cannabis, cocaine and heroin. The goal of this national plan is to focus on rehabilitating those people who are suffering from problems with addiction rather than continuing to shame them in 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 Ó Ríordáin.
Unfortunately, the plan to remove the criminal penalties from all illegal drugs is not yet one written in stone. The drug minister said he simply plans to introduce the “Misuse of Drugs Bill” to the government controls sometime next year in an effort to remove some of the barriers that force drug offenders into prosecution rather than treatment for their disease.
Earlier this year, O Ríordáin told The Irish Times that a round-table discussion on the subject of decriminalization produced “wide consensus” to make a move towards implementing such a plan. Yet, he admitted there were “some question marks and some discussion points as to how to get wider society on board with the idea.”
Members of Ireland’s Committee on Justice, Defense and Equality recently took a field trip to Portugal to see how 15 years of decriminalization have impacted the nation. What they found was a country that has experienced a significant decrease in drug-related crime and a drop in overall consumption rates.
A report on their findings suggests that “contrary to concerns at the time of the policy changed, Portugal did not become a destination for drug consumers and the authorities continue to strongly combat the selling and trafficking of drugs.”
If Ireland decriminalizes drugs in 2016, O Ríordáin is adamant that law enforcement will still continue to crackdown on the black market trade. However, in the case of the drug user, “the substance is illegal, but you are not a criminal for taking it.”
What other countries should decriminalize cannabis? Tell us what you think in the comments.