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Home > Drug policy: need for radical change?

McVerry, Peter (2011) Drug policy: need for radical change? Working Notes, 67, .

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What began as a heroin problem in inner-city Dublin in the 1980s has now spread like a cancer throughout Irish society. A wide variety of drugs, from cannabis to heroin to cocaine and on to crack cocaine, are now available in almost every town and village in Ireland. Crystal meth will probably be the next wave of drugs to hit our shores. While many of us have lived our entire lives without ever seeing an illegal drug, this most certainly cannot be assumed to be the case for the children and young people now growing up in our society.

The monetary value of the illegal drug trade in Ireland probably runs to hundreds of millions of euro per year.1 This ‘business’ has created about twenty violent drug gangs, who import illegal drugs and control their sale. Despite the successes of the Gardaí in seizing huge quantities of drugs and arresting those who are dealing in this trade, there is no shortage of drugs on our streets. As long as a kilo of cocaine can be bought in South America for €700, and sold on the streets of our cities and towns for €70,000, there will be no shortage of people willing to risk imprisonment – or worse – for this kind of profit. Each new generation of drug dealers is more violent and more alienated from the society around them than those who went before, and the factors which trigger their violence are becoming more and more trivial. Their violence and threats of violence discourage all but the bravest from providing information or evidence to the Gardaí.

How are we to tackle this scourge? There are two basic dimensions to any drug policy:
•Policies to deal with the supply of drugs;
•Policies to deal with the demand for drugs.

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