Tánaiste Micheál Martin has signalled support for a decriminalisation of drugs, saying he backs calls from his own TDs for a health-led approach.
Two Fianna Fáil TDs, including the chair of the Oireachtas justice committee, said the war on drugs is not working, and there must be a legalisation of drugs in this country.
Recreational drug users could be able to access their substance of choice in a “off licence”-style outlet, in a bid to control the make-up of the drugs and limit the ability of drug gangs to make vast fortunes from their illegal trade.
Oireachtas justice committee chairman James Lawless and Dublin North West TD Paul McAuliffe said what they are recommending is that the country would accelerate the process of decriminalisation that is already in place.
They are calling for the Government to appoint a chairperson to a proposed citizens’ assembly on the issue of drugs as a matter of urgency.
Both Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Mr Martin had promised that such a group would be established this year, with indications it could be set up before the summer.
A spokesperson for Mr Martin told the: "The Tánaiste supports a health-led approach to drug addiction and supports commitments in the programme for government to convene a Citizens’ Assembly on Drug Use, as well as examining approaches to identifying at-risk vulnerable groups to interrupt their potential trajectory into problem drug and alcohol misuse."
Junior Health Minister Hildegarde Naughton said that the Citizens' Assembly on drugs "is a really important piece of work" which she hopes will be progressed in the weeks ahead.
Accepting that their proposals may be seen as radical in some quarters, Mr Lawless and Mr McAuliffe insist that treating people with drug addictions with a justice response is not appropriate.
They are proposing a regulatory model, similar to how alcohol is policed, with strength indicators present on the bottle or box.
The two TDs have also said that as part of their plan, there would be significant investment in addiction treatments and counselling.
When asked about what drugs they would seek to decriminalise, Mr Lawless sought to draw a distinction between naturally-grown substances such as mushrooms and peyote as used by native Americans, and those substances such as crack cocaine which are artificially manufactured in “backstreet labs”.
Mr McAuliffe said the idea of addiction as an illness is not widely understood.
“We want people to understand this and that if you have an illness, the police turning up at your door is not the first port of call,” he said.
Both said that the taking of any drugs is a negative, but what they were offering was a pragmatic response in response to the current “hypocrisy” which exists on this issue.