Teenagers caught with cannabis at outdoor concerts like Oxegen should not be arrested, a Catholic anti-drugs agency said today.
Crosscare, which runs counselling programmes in the Dublin Archdiocese, said dozens of music fans come looking for help every year to avoid court penalties.
Up to 400 people were arrested for minor drugs offences at events like Oxegen and Electric Picnic last year.
Crosscare co-ordinator Michael McDonagh said concerts should set up “counselling tents” for offenders rather than being arrested by gardaí and processed through the courts.
“Our time is being wasted every year by mostly Leaving Cert students who don’t have an addiction problem but have been arrested for a smoking a joint.
“Their solicitor sends them to us so they can avoid big fines or suspended prison sentences when they go into court or a judge refers them to us.
“But our resources would be much better utilised in helping people who have serious problems with drugs or alcohol rather than school leavers having a joint.”
The radical proposal is contained in a new report, Court-Appointed Drug Education: The Perspective of the Voluntary Sector, being published by Crosscare on Friday.
However Mr McDonagh insisted he wasn’t calling for the legalisation of cannabis for personal use.
Crosscare said it aims to stop meeting individuals referred by courts for drug education.
The report was conducted at some of last year’s major music festivals where up to 400 people were arrested for minor drug offences.
“Gardaí should caution the individual and request that they go to a designated area, to be set up at concerts in an effort to help educate young people about drugs.
“The counselling tents suggested by Crosscare could be manned by gardaí or juvenile liaison officers,” Mr McDonagh said.
Crosscare provides drug education, training and support services to adolescents and families.