Eight out of 10 families, directly affected by drug addiction favour decriminalisation of drug possession, a survey indicates.
Some 80% of 200 members polled by the National Family Support Network (NFSN) backed the move.
Families from across the country attended the NFSN annual work conference last weekend.
They were asked: “Do you support the decriminalisation of drug use?” Of the 197 who answered, 81% said yes, 16% said no, and 4% responded “don’t know”.
NFSN co-ordinator Sadie Grace said: “80.7% of attendees at the NFSN annual work conference who participated in our poll supported the decriminalisation of drugs.
“We in the NFSN believe that to criminalise a person who is drug dependent for the personal possession of drugs is futile and can jeopardise a person’s capacity for long-term rehabilitation while also adding extra heartache to the family.”
Ms Grace said the money spent on prosecuting possession cases — two thirds of all drug cases — could go elsewhere.
“Pursuing the prosecution of drug users for personal possession can be a burden on limited resources within the criminal justice system that could be better directed towards tackling drug-related intimidation enforced by organised crime gangs.”
Anna Quigley, chair of the Citywide Drugs Crisis Campaign, an umbrella group of local projects, told families of its support for decriminalisation.
She said criminalisation results in “stigma and discrimination” for drug users and their families, and creates a “barrier” to employment, housing, training, travel, and insurance.
Ms Quigley said there is an “increasing trend towards decriminalisation” with up to 30 countries going that way, including EU states. “There is no increase in overall levels of drug use as a result,” she said.
Ms Quigley said the experience of the model in Portugal shows decriminalisation provides a “legal framework to deal with drug use as a social and public health issue rather than a criminal one”.
She stressed that decriminalisation “does not have magical powers”.
Ms Quigley said the Portuguese experience is that levels of drug use are below the European average and that drug use has declined among those aged 15-24.
She said rates of recent and current drug usage in the general population have fallen, with significant decreases in drug-related deaths, HIV, and Hepatitis C and B among drug users.
Drugs Minister Aodhán Ó Ríordáin also spoke at the conference, repeating his support for decriminalisation of possession.
The Irish Examiner reported earlier this month that all but one of the 87 submissions from the public to an Oireachtas justice committee drug law review backed the Portuguese model. The committee is expected to make a cross-party recommendation that the model be seriously considered by the Government.
Contact www.fsn.ie or 01 8980148
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