Amnesty backs calls to decriminalise possession of drugs for personal use

By Cormac O'Keeffe
Security Correspondent

Amnesty is backing calls to decriminalise the possession of drugs for personal use.

The move by Amnesty Ireland coincides with a forthcoming global policy by Amnesty International advocating the policy change.

The intervention comes as a State working group is finalising a report on the issue for the Government.

The Irish Examiner reported last January that the group was considering recommending retaining criminalisation of possession for personal use, but that it should be dealt with by a diversion programme in which users would be sent for a health intervention rather than to the courts.

Amnesty Ireland said criminalisation of drug use and possession for personal use was part of an “ill-conceived strategy” to deter the use of drugs.

In a statement, it said the strategy had “destroyed the lives” of people who use drugs, their families, and other affected communities and had “done little” to address the problems associated with the use of drugs.

It said it supported the #SaferFromHarm campaign, calling for decriminalisation of possession, recently launched by the Ana Liffey Drugs Project.

Amnesty said drug prohibition and criminalisation had left a “legacy of violence, disease, mass incarceration, suffering and abuse around the world”. It said decriminalisation had to be accompanied by an “expansion of health and other social services” and measures to address “underlying causes”.

It said it was not calling for the legalisation of drugs.

On diversion programmes, Amnesty said they often “exacerbate the conflation of drug use and drug dependence”, in that not everyone who used drugs had or developed a dependence on them.

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