Home > Dáil Éireann debate. Written answer 779 – Substance misuse [Citizen’s Assembly on Drugs] [39214/22] .

[Oireachtas] Dáil Éireann debate. Written answer 779 – Substance misuse [Citizen’s Assembly on Drugs] [39214/22] . (14 Jul 2022)

External website: https://www.oireachtas.ie/en/debates/question/2022...

779. Deputy Thomas Gould asked the Minister for Health if he will provide an update on work being done by his Department to prepare for the Citizen’s Assembly on Drugs. [39214/22]

Minister of State at the Department of Health: The Government has established two concurrent citizens' assemblies; one dealing with biodiversity loss and the other with the type of directly elected mayor and local government structures best suited for Dublin. It is proposed that a Citizens’ Assembly on Drug Use will directly follow these two assemblies, with the intention of running it concurrently with the Citizens’ Assembly on the Future of Education, if learnings from the concurrent running of assemblies suggest that this operational model is the best way forward.

In line with this decision, the Department of Health has commenced preparations for the Citizens’ Assembly on Drug Use, and, to this end, detailed discussions regarding the assembly took place at the most recent meeting of the National Oversight Committee for the National Drugs Strategy. These preparations are being undertaken to ensure that there will be no delay in establishing this citizens’ assembly when the two assemblies which are currently operating complete their work before the end of this year or in quarter 1, 2023 at the latest. This will allow a period of over one year for the Government to consider its recommendations.

The Government is pursuing a health-led approach to drug use through the health diversion programme, which offers compassion, not punishment to people who are in possession of drugs for personal use. The programme will connect participants with health services and provide a pathway to recovery. It will also allow participants to avoid a criminal conviction, which can have far-reaching consequences, particularly for younger people.

As we prepare for the Citizens Assembly on Drug Use, work continues to implement the health diversion programme and the strategic priorities for the remaining four years of the national drugs strategy. One of these priorities is to promote alternatives to coercive sanctions for drug-related offences. This priority aligns with the EU Drugs Strategy and Action Plan, 2021 – 2025, which actively encourages Member States to scale up alternatives to coercive sanctions and to monitor and evaluate their effectiveness for drug using offenders and for people arrested, charged with or convicted for drug-related offences or people found in possession of drugs for personal use.

I am very positive about the potential contribution of the citizens assembly to the government's health-led response to drug use. Drug use affects all members of society, whether directly or indirectly, and imposes very significant social and financial costs. Involving citizens in decision-making on drugs policy is therefore appropriate.

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