Ireland intends to decriminalize several drugs and open clinics where addicts can use drugs without legal punishment.
The Independent reports Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, minister of Ireland's National Drugs Strategy, said at the London School of Economics and Political Science on Monday supervised injection rooms will be available in Dublin next year.
Rather than a "free-for-all," Ó Ríordáin explained addicts would be able to legally use drugs in "clinically-controlled environments" to prevent their addictions from becoming serious hazards to public health, according to The Irish Times.
He told The Irish Times,
Research has shown that the use of supervised injecting [centers] is associated with self-reported reductions in injecting risk [behaviors].
The facilities will be designed largely for homeless drug addicts and other "hard-to-reach populations" who may be endangering others with their drug use.
Ó Ríordáin hopes for additional clinics to open in Cork, Galway and Limerick after the Dublin facility is up and running.
He also said Ireland will soon move toward decriminalizing heroin, cocaine and marijuana.
Profiting from the sale of these drugs would remain illegal, but drug users will not be penalized for possessing them in small amounts.
Ó Ríordáin said,
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.
The minister believes a huge obstacle in combating drug addiction is the associated stigma asserting users should be shamed instead of helped.
He plans on removing this stigma by diminishing the rate of drug users getting arrested.
The decriminalization, he said, will be different from legalization in that each user won't be criminalized for his or her individual drug use.
Ó Ríordáin told The Irish Times,
Regardless of the drug, the individual needs an intervention and society will be saying, 'the substance is illegal, but you are not a criminal for taking it.'
These new policies, however, will have to be put into action by the next government.
Ó Ríordáin appears to have been influenced by the success of Portugal, which decriminalized heroin about 15 years ago.
The introduction of clinics resulted in a massive decrease in nationwide use.
Citations: Ireland to 'decriminalise' small amounts of drugs, including heroin, cocaine and cannabis, for personal use (Independent), Injection rooms for addicts to open next year in drug law change, says Minister (The Irish Times)