Thursday, 18 February 2021
Covid-19 (Drug and Alcohol Services, and Homelessness): Statements
Gino Kenny (Dublin Mid West, People Before Profit Alliance)
I thank the Minister of State for his statement. This is probably the first time I have formally engaged with him so I wish him well during his tenure in office. We have different views on alcohol and drug policies, but as the conclusion of the Minister of State's statement says, it is about harm reduction. That is what it is about, because the previous policies of other Governments have been a failure. Obviously, the pandemic has imposed major pressures on alcohol and drug intervention supports. People cannot go there physically now and that is causing big difficulties for people for whom they were an outlet. That is not available anymore, and it is not the same doing it remotely. There is a big lacuna in that regard and, hopefully, that can be addressed in the next three or four months.
I have a number of questions for the Minister of State about the drugs strategy. In my opinion, the current policy is a complete failure. It is failing people. It is good that the Minister of State referenced health inequalities faced by people who are homeless and in addiction. This is a societal matter that must be teased out. The debate on decriminalisation has been ongoing for years. It goes around and around, but nobody answers. I understand the Citizens' Assembly will discuss decriminalisation. We have to understand what decriminalisation means. It is decriminalising the person, rather than the drugs the person has for personal use. We want to find out when the Citizens' Assembly will discuss this and if there will be decriminalisation for personal use. It has worked in other jurisdictions. Will this be implemented?
I believe we must go further than decriminalisation in respect of certain drugs, particularly cannabis and the possession of cannabis. Bringing people through the criminal justice system, that is, bringing them to court and giving them sentences and criminal convictions, is a failure. What is the Minister of State's opinion on the legalisation of cannabis in the drugs strategy during his tenure?