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drug policy

Taoiseach expects Oireachtas committee on drug use to be up and running no later than April

The committee will consider the Report of the Citizens’ Assembly on Drugs Use and respond to its recommendations.

THE OIREACHTAS JOINT Committee on Drugs Use should be set by next month or certainly no later than April, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said.

The committee will consider the Report of the Citizens’ Assembly on Drugs Use and respond to its recommendations.

The assembly, comprised 99 citizens with Reid as the chairperson, met on six occasions from April to October 2023. The meetings included 130 speakers and panellists, 250 hours of deliberations, and consideration of 800 public submissions.

The assembly voted that the State should take a comprehensive health-led policy response to dealing with people who are in possession of drugs for personal use, rather than voting for a legalisation and regulation approach.

Among its 36 recommendations is a proposal that people should be referred to health and addiction services where appropriate, rather than criminalised.

The group recommended that the possession of cannabis, mushrooms (psilocybin), cocaine and other drugs for personal use should be decriminalised.

Given the scope of the recommendations, the government thinks it would be most appropriate for the report to be examined by a special Joint Committee, rather than a standing Committee.

14 members to sit on committee 

It will be made up of 14 members, both Senators and TDs. The independent members will be asked to nominate a chairperson as it is their turn in the rotation.

“We would expect it to be up and running next month or certainly no later than April. There are some technicalities around that. The committee is being given seven months to carry out its work and produce a report, but it does not have to take seven months.

“It could be done more quickly. It was pointed out to me by my staff who were involved in the citizen’s assembly and by the Chairman, Paul Reid, that because all of the different interest groups and experts appeared before the assembly, it is not necessarily the case that the special committee should have to do that all over again.

“Ultimately, it is going to be a decision for the members and the Chair as to whether they want to have everyone come in again or whether they would be happy enough to get it done in one day. That is their call, not ours,” Varadkar said today. 

Varadkar said one “take-away’ he took from Reid is there is a need to develop an Irish model that works for Irish circumstances and not try to copy a model from any other jurisdiction.

He said Reid was also very keen to point out that while the citizen’s assembly recommended decriminalisation and a health-led approach, it made many other recommendations as well.

“He was keen that this would not just be about the issue of decriminalisation, how that works and what it would mean, important as that is,” said Varadkar. 

The next steps in establishing the committee is the Government Chief Whip contacting the Ceann Comhairle to propose the establishment of the committee.

It will be up to the Dáil and Seanad to establish the Committee and appoint the Chair and members.

It is envisaged the Committee would conclude its work and report back to the Oireachtas within seven months of its first meeting, with a report expected in Q3 or Q4 of this year. 

Following the conclusion of the committee’s work and the publication of its response, the Government will also publish a response to the report of the Citizens’ Assembly.

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