In the latest sign that the worldwide war on drugs has been a tremendous failure, Ireland has announced plans to decriminalize the personal usage of heroin, cocaine and marijuana. The announcement was made by the leader of the National Drugs Strategy Aodhán Ó Ríordáin.
According to Ríordáin, drug addicts will be permitted to use supervised injecting rooms starting early next year. He says that this change of policy will remove addicts from the criminal justice system and eliminate the stigma associated with drug addiction.
Ríordáin said, “I am firmly of the view 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.”
Ríordáin will announce the policy change during a speech that will be presented to the London School of Economics on Monday. He hopes that the new bill will be put into law by sometime early next year.
With the policy, the first supervised injecting rooms will be opened in Dublin. Further down the road, Cork, Galway and Limerick will also receive these designated areas.
The rooms will consist of clinically controlled environments where addicts can safely use drugs under the supervision of medical professionals, without the fear of prosecution. They will not be anything-goes clinics, and there will be strict rules put into place. Users will have to bring their own “medication”, but they will be provided with clean needles.
Despite the new policy, it will still be a crime to sell, distribute or profit from illegal drugs.
Other countries, such as Switzerland and Canada, have already opened similar drug clinics. They typically offer safe places for users to inject illegal drugs, and they often operate in conjunction with addiction treatment facilities.
Representatives of the United Nations have recently encouraged worldwide governments to decriminalize small amounts of drugs for personal use. In recent years, there has been a major shift from a full “war on drugs” to a more liberal approach that focuses on helping addicts receive treatment rather than locking them away.
British tycoon and drug decriminalization advocate Richard Branson said of the recent activity from the UN on his blog, “This is a refreshing shift that could go a long way to finally end the needless criminalization of millions of drug users around the world. Together with countless other tireless advocates, I've for years argued that we should treat drug use as a health issue, not as a crime. While the vast majority of recreational drug users never experience any problems, people who struggle with drug addiction deserve access to treatment, not a prison cell.”
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime recently announced that they had scrapped plans to release a paper regarding the benefits of decriminalizing illegal drugs.