Ireland Looking To Decriminalize Certain Drugs, Open Safe Injection Sites

By McCarton Ackerman 11/04/15

Drugs will still be illegal for sale, but users will no longer be punished.

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Ireland could be moving in a radically different direction with how it addresses drug use as the country’s drug minister confirmed that there will be a move towards decriminalizing numerous substances.

Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, the chief of Ireland’s National Drugs Strategy, said during a lecture at the London School of Economics, that marijuana, cocaine, and heroin would be among the drugs that could be decriminalized. Although they would not be legal and it would still be a crime to profit from either the sale or distribution of these substances, those who use them would no longer face legal action.

“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 Ó Ríordáin during the lecture. "We're trying to change the entire context in which we discuss this issue from a moralistic one to one which is actually much more realistic and compassionate.”

However, he also acknowledged that the decision would be up to Ireland’s next government to make. A general election is due to be held by this April.

He also confirmed during the talk that Ireland will also begin implementing supervised safe injection centers. The first center will be opened next year in Dublin, with other major cities including Limerick and Cork to also host them later in the year. Ó Ríordáin made it clear that the centers will not be supplying any drugs, but merely provide a place for users to do so.

"It will effectively mean a diplomatic immunity to inject heroin in a safe, secure, passionate environment,” he said. "It will limit the dangers of contracting HIV and hepatitis C and also takes away the street injecting phenomenon.”

If approved as planned, Ireland would join the Netherlands, Switzerland, Spain, and Denmark as European countries with safe injection sites.

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.