Ireland’s drugs minister says he supports decriminalisation and wants to set up injection rooms for drug users.
Aodhán Ó Ríordáin wants to decriminalise possessing drugs such as heroin, cocaine and cannabis for personal use, The Irish Times reports.
Ó Ríordáin has also backed ‘safe rooms’ for users to inject substances – saying they could be set up in Dublin next year, followed by Cork, Limerick and Galway.
In the UK, calls to legalise cannabis have been challenged by MPs who cited increasing evidence of a link between cannabis use and mental illness.
And a previous proposal for drug rooms in Brighton risked “turning whole areas into drug hot-spots”, one commentator warned.
But Ó Ríordáin claimed that decriminalisation is a “progressive way forward” and makes “absolute sense” when most drug convictions are for personal possession.
Health Minister Leo Varadkar said he too supported ‘drug injection centres’, but noted that the Irish Government had not backed the idea.
Replying to a member of the Irish Parliament, Varadkar said: “The key change would mean that within the centre it would not be illegal to possess drugs that are otherwise illegal”.
He acknowledged that this was “not necessarily a simple matter”, saying the law would need to ensure that there were “tight prohibitions on possession of heroin in all but the most limited of circumstances”.
Last month MPs at Westminster debated the legalisation of cannabis, after a petition called for a change in the law.
Dr Lisa Cameron MP pointed to research which found that “adolescents who use cannabis regularly have a significantly higher risk of developing depression, anxiety and psychotic illnesses such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder”.
Conservative MP Dr Daniel Poulter said that research increasingly demonstrates a “strong link between psychosis and the use of cannabis”.
Home Office Minister Mike Penning MP said that the Government would not support the call.
Last year a commission on drugs in Brighton rejected the idea of drug rooms, after it had been mooted in 2013 but faced criticism.
At the time Neil McKeganey, from the Centre for Drug Misuse Research, highlighted a potential major flaw.
He said: “A drug user arrested for possession of heroin anywhere within Brighton and Hove could simply claim that they were en route to the consumption room”.
Commentators Melanie Phillips, Peter Hitchens and Rod Liddle also spoke out against the idea.