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War on Drugs

04 June 2008

Order of Business

Senator Ivana Bacik: Last night's “Prime Time Investigates” programme investigated the so-called war on drugs and examined alternatives to the prohibitionist approach to drug misuse. The Leader previously facilitated a debate on this and I was one of the Senators who participated in formulating the motion. However, the debate lapsed into platitudes on what to do about drugs and we did not sufficiently address the question of alternatives to the current criminal justice or prohibitionist approach to drugs in our society. Last night's programme clearly and coherently showed the case for a harm reduction model, as used in Amsterdam, Switzerland and other countries. Such alternatives should be examined rather than focusing on criminal justice and law and order. Too many platitudes and insufficient practicalities have characterised the debate on drugs to date. It is timely to have another debate not only in light of the “Prime Time Investigates” programme but also in light of the publication of a book next week by a colleague in Trinity College, Paul O'Mahony, entitled, The Irish war on drugs: the seductive folly of prohibition. He was quoted on the programme last night describing criticisms of the current approach to drug law in Ireland. It is timely, therefore, to have a debate on how best to progress harm reduction models to ensure addicts are treated as patients rather than as criminals.