Home > Seanad Eireann debate. Misuse of Drugs (Amendment) Bill 2016: committee stage.

[Oireachtas] Seanad Eireann debate. Misuse of Drugs (Amendment) Bill 2016: committee stage. (29 Jun 2016)

External website: https://www.oireachtas.ie/en/debates/debate/seanad...

Acting Chairman (Senator John O'Mahony): I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy Catherine Byrne.

  Sections 1 and 2 agreed to.



Acting Chairman (Senator John O'Mahony):  Amendments Nos. 1 and 2 are related and may be discussed together by agreement. Is that agreed? Agreed.


Senator Lynn Ruane: I move amendment No. 1: In page 3, after line 28, to insert the following: "Amendment of section 3 of Principal Act 3. Section 3 of the Principal Act is amended by the insertion the following subsection:

“(2A) That possession of the substances listed in Part 1 and Part 2 of the Schedule not be subject to prosecution for amounts equating to personal use.".".


The relentless warfare on drugs has failed. It failed long ago. It fails every time an addict dies from the effects of an unknown substance. It fails every time a parent has to pay the drug debt of a child. It fails every time we imprison an addict for possession and it fails every time we introduce legislation to further criminalise the addict. The addict has become collateral damage in the State's fight to dismantle the drugs trade. Legislation that criminalises possession reinforces the stigma associated with addiction. We cannot continue to try to separate the addict from the dealer. I have had dozens of conversations in recent weeks with people who both sell and use substances. I refer to two of the contributions which I raise in order to communicate the reality of the amendments and the people they affect. A 34 year old woman from Tallaght said:

Even after I was raped, imprisoned, battered, pimped and hospitalised I have been refused treatments for benzo addiction. Apparently I am not ready, or so some stranger likes to decide. I sell benzos, not a huge amount, just enough to fund my own use and to do some food shopping. I often have boxes of benzos in my possession.


A young 17 year old male from Crumlin said:

My brother and I started taking tablets after weekend sessions. We used to rob my Mam's zimos when we were children and I deliver benzos for my cousin so I can get some for myself. I would like to join the Army someday but I can't seem to stop messing around, ever since my brother died and my cousin was murdered. Both of these used Zopiclone amongst other tablets.


That young boy will never make it to the Army if he is prosecuted for possession and the woman from Tallaght risks being imprisoned again if treatment for benzo addiction does not become the priority instead of treating her like a criminal.   In Portugal, if the two individuals in the cases outlined were caught in possession they would have a greater chance of access to much-needed services. A commission for the dissuasion of drug addiction convenes when an individual is found with drugs. These commissions are made up a social worker, a solicitor and a doctor or a psychiatrist and the outcome is a fine or treatment. Nearly 16 years on, Portugal has not seen an increase in addiction. In fact, statistics from the Transform Drug Policy Foundation shows a decline in the population reporting to have used drugs. Statistics also show that drug use declined in the most at-risk group, namely, 15 to 24 year olds.   We cannot continue to ignore the positive progression of Portugal's decriminalisation policies. The British Journal of Criminology in 2010 found that Portugal also shows a decrease in imprisonment for drug-related charges and there has also been a surge in visits to addiction centres. We will never control the flow of drugs by banning them. Instead, we should create policy that increases access to drug treatment and addresses inequality and poverty. Leaving the most vulnerable at risk of arrest reinforces the cycle of criminality. Addiction begins and ends with pain. Before Members vote today I urge them to consider the fact that criminalising drug possession, which will affect the addict, just adds to the cycle of pain. We live in a culture emotionally, psychologically and economically that punishes those already suffering. The moment we flip those policies on their head and move away from criminalisation, the closer we move to opening up the pathways to recovery and support for our friends, communities and values. I hope Members will take that into consideration when considering the amendments today.

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