De­crim­i­nal­is­ing drug use a dan­ger­ous move

Bray People - - OPINION - With Deb­o­rah Cole­man

THERE is a sug­ges­tion that drug users found with a small amount of sub­stances in their pos­ses­sion could avoid crim­i­nal con­vic­tion if it is for their own use. This is one as­pect of drug cul­ture which will be ex­am­ined in the Na­tional Drugs Strat­egy, to be pub­lished this week.

For years, the ar­gu­ment has been made that the deal­ers, and not the ad­dicts should be pun­ished but I don’t see how let­ting them avoid con­vic­tion will help the users them­selves or in­deed so­ci­ety as a whole.

Of course the deal­ers who are the ones ped­dling the poi­son should be pun­ished but those who pur­chase and con­sume il­le­gal drugs should also face the courts.

The push­ers have a lot to an­swer for. They prey on the vul­ner­a­ble and the weak and they feed and ex­ploit their ad­dic­tions.

How­ever, we can­not send the mes­sage out that any­one who has drugs on them will not be pros­e­cuted if what they pos­sess is sim­ply for their own use.

Ad­dic­tion is one of the most dam­ag­ing and de­struc­tive blights on Ir­ish so­ci­ety and the acts that drug ad­dicts of­ten carry out to feed their habit are a con­se­quence of this.

If they were told that they are im­mune from pros­e­cu­tion I fear this could open the flood­gates even fur­ther.

At present, any­one who comes be­fore the courts on a first of­fence for a mi­nor pos­ses­sion charge can of­ten avoid con­vic­tion any­way, if they make a suit­able do­na­tion to char­ity.

If this isn’t a wake-up call then they de­serve to be con­vic­tion on a sec­ond of­fence. How many chances can the courts be ex­pected to give de­fen­dants who time and time again present them­selves?

These ‘small time’ ad­dicts are cost­ing the state mil­lions ev­ery year – Garda time, courts ser­vices, free le­gal aid, pro­ba­tion ser­vices, ad­dic­tion ser­vices and some­times prison ser­vices and they are given ev­ery op­por­tu­nity to avail of sup­port if they wish. If these ser­vices are pulled away from them by al­low­ing them to feed their ad­dic­tions un­ques­tioned then what will become of many of them?

It would be a dis­ser­vice to so­ci­ety to al­low any­one who is en­gulfed in ad­dic­tion, who is also a vic­tim, to con­tinue to harm them­selves without fear of pros­e­cu­tion.

The drugs that are il­le­gal in this coun­try are il­le­gal for a rea­son – be­cause they are deadly and de­stroy lives – re­gard­less of the quan­tity.

Drugs are il­le­gal in this coun­try for a rea­son.

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