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drugs policy

Citizens' Assembly on drugs expected to begin before summer

The Taoiseach said that a report by the Oireachtas Justice Committee would help set the terms of reference.

TAOISEACH LEO VARADKAR has indicated that the Citizens’ Assembly on drugs will be established before the Dáil breaks for summer.

Speaking in the Dáil yesterday, Varadkar said that there were currently two citizens’ assemblies in the pipeline, one on drugs and the other on the future of education.

The Citizens’ Assembly on Drugs, however, is likely to start first and be in place before the summer.

“We’re very keen to have it [Citizens' Assembly on drugs] up and running before the summer recess,” Varadkar said, in response to a question from Independent TD Violet-Anne Wynne.

He said that a report by the Justice Committee, which recommended that the decriminalisation of drugs be accelerated, would be used to help set the terms of reference for the Citizens’ Assembly.

The Taoiseach previously said that he does not have a view on cannabis legalisation but wants the debate to be led by the general public.

“I haven’t formed a view on it and obviously don’t want to, kind of, prejudice what the Citizens’ Assembly might come up with,” Varadkar said.

He also told reporters that he had not used drugs since he became a national politician, having admitted to smoking cannabis in a 2010 interview.

Two Fianna Fáil TDs, James Lawless and Paul McAuliffe yesterday called on the Government to begin the process of selecting a chairperson to spearhead the Citizens’ Assembly.

Lawless also said that a regulatory model should be examined and could help make illicit drugs safer and more managed.

“In the same way as a bottle of alcohol can be 40% proof, it can be 3%, it could be 4.5%, we know what it is, we know where it’s manufactured, there are standards and testing around it,” Lawless said.

“That’s same model could be explored for recreational drugs as an alternative.”

When asked if this could allow for people to buy drugs like cocaine and heroin, Lawless said that there should be a distinction between naturally occuring substances and artificially manufactured drugs.

“So mushrooms grow in the ground, peyote is something that Native American Indians used, mescaline is something that was used in South America.

“These are things that tend to grow naturally, they can be harvested or foraged, unlike for instance, crack cocaine.

“These are exactly the kinds of things that we should look at in a regulatory model.”

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