The war on drugs has failed. This week, Aodhagán Ó Riordán, the junior minister with responsibility for drug policy announced (see speech here) that the law was going to be changed to allow the opening of supervised injecting rooms for people who use heroin. I applaud this brave step as I think that as a country it is time for us to stop penalising the victims of drug addiction, and start caring for our most vulnerable more compassionately, and at the same time make our cities safer for everybody.
Many, many people have a problems, worries or issues, which lead them to feel that their only option is to escape from reality, by using substances or developing habits that may harm themselves or others, either in the long or the shorter term. By following a prohibitionist approach, as we have with drugs, we are punishing these people and driving them away from their families and into lives of crime or the hands of criminals.
What if we used the resources currently wasted on punishing these people to treat them in a carer manner, and deal with the problems and issues that drive them to dependency in the first place?
Portugal has cut addiction rates in half by adopting this sort of approach. I think Ireland should also. We could, continue the work started by the opening of injecting centres, by legalising and regulating cannabis, diverting money from criminals pockets into taxes. This would result in a huge workload reduction for the Gardaí who would no longer be processing minor possession cases.