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Call for part of Misuse of Drugs Act to be repealed

A coalition of stakeholders led by a number of TDs and Senators have called for part of the Misuse of Drugs Act to be repealed.

Section 3 of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1977 criminalises people for the possession of drugs for personal use.

Yesterday, the Government announced that it would establish a Joint Oireachtas Committee to consider the Report of the Citizens’ Assembly on Drugs Use and respond to its recommendations.

Following months of hearings last year, the assembly voted for a health-led approach to the use of drugs in Ireland.

At a presentation this morning, a group led by Independent Senator Lynn Ruane, Deputy Neasa Hourigan of the Green Party and Labour TD Aodhán Ó Ríordáin said Section 3 of the act should be repealed as a first step.

At this morning’s presentation, coordinator of the Citywide Drugs Crisis Campaign Anna Quigley stressed the importance of ending “the current moral judgement of drug use as ‘bad’ and something for which people need to be punished”.

She said repealing the particular section of the act would ensure “effective implementation” of the other recommendations.

It was argued that recommendations regarding health services could not be implemented effectively without repeal.

Assistant Professor in Criminology at Maynooth University Dr Ian Marder said the international evidence was clear that criminalising drug possession “actively caused harm” and “makes everyone less safe”.

“Decriminalising possession is an essential step towards a policy that effectively reduces harm to individuals and communities,” he said.

Despite claims that a health-led approach is being pursued in Ireland, thousands of people are searched, arrested, charged and convicted of the possession of drugs each year according to the coalition.

It said over 6,000 people were criminally charged for “simple drug possession” last year.

“This figure is rising, despite this clogging up our justice system and wasting vital garda and court resources,” it said.

The Joint Oireachtas Committee which is due to be established in the coming weeks is expected to report back to the Oireachtas by the end of 2024.

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