Ireland will move towards decriminalising substances including heroin, cocaine and cannabis as part of a “radical cultural shift”, the country’s drugs minister has said.
Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, the chief of Ireland’s National Drugs Strategy, told a lecture at the London School of Economics on Monday that drug users will be able to inject in specially designated rooms in Dublin from next year.
The minister said attitudes to drugs needed to move away from shaming addicts to helping them and emphasised there was a difference between legalisation and decriminalisation.
It would remain a crime to profit – from either the sale or distribution of illegal drugs – but drug takers would no longer be criminalised for their addictions.
“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 Mr Ó Ríordáin.
However, while Mr O Ríordáin told The Irish Times that there was a “strong consensus that drugs across the board should be decriminalised,” he said it would be for Ireland’s next government to discuss.
Where cannabis is and isn’t legal
His comments follow a leaked report from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, appearing to call for a worldwide decriminalisation on 19 October.
The report was reportedly withdrawn after at least one nation put pressure on the international body to bury the findings of Dr Monica Beg, chief of the HIV/AIDs section of the UNODC in Vienna.
Discussing plans to open ‘injection rooms’ Mr Ó Ríordáin said they would be “clinically controlled environments” that would aim to prevent already vulnerable individuals from exposing themselves to further risks.
He added: “Research has shown that the use of supervised injecting centres is associated with self-reported reductions in injecting risk behaviours.”
Following the opening of the Dublin clinic, the minster added he hoped similar rooms in Cork, Glaway and Limerick would also open.