Upcoming Public Consultation On The National Drugs Strategy

By Brian Houlihan

Catherine Byrne TD. The Minister responsible for National Drugs Strategy

Next week a public consultation process on the new National Drugs Strategy will commence. For six weeks, between September 6th and October 18th, members of the public have the opportunity to shape the new National Drugs Strategy by submitting their views to government.

The National Drugs Strategy brings together government departments and agencies and the community and voluntary sectors to provide a collective response to tackling the drugs problem.

The objective of the strategy is to tackle the harm caused to individuals, families and communities by problem drug and alcohol use through the five pillars of: Supply reduction, prevention, treatment, rehabilitation and research.

You can learn more about the National Drug Strategy here

The government are seeking the views of the public, community and voluntary sectors, young people, family networks, service users and government departments/agencies on the existing National Drugs Strategy in order to shape the new strategy which commences in 2017.

Catherine Byrne TD, the minister responsible for drug strategy, will release further details of the consultation next week. She will announce the details at 10.00am on September 6th at an event to which the media and various groups, including Help Not Harm, have been invited too.

Some consultations began behind the scenes in May and Help Not Harm were among those invited to participate. Graham de Barra (Director of Help Not Harm) attended numerous meetings at the Department of Health as part of shaping the education and prevention pillars of the upcoming strategy.

Graham de Barra (right) before the first strategy meeting. Pictured here with Ben Morgan (left).

The upcoming public consultation process is similar to what occurred last year when the government sought views on the decriminalisation of drugs for personal use. For that public consultation, under the remit of the Justice Committee, 87 submissions were received, with only one opposed to the idea of decriminalisation.

There were further hearings and a report was later issued which recommended that Ireland change how it treats drug offenders. It suggested such offenders be dealt with in a civil and administrative approach (similar to Portugal) rather than being criminalised.

Help Not Harm’s Graham de Barra (also a founder of SSDP Ireland) was among those who spoke before the committee last year.

Graham de Barra before a government committee

The upcoming public consultation process on the new National Drugs Strategy offers the public a rare opportunity to directly help shape drug policy in Ireland. We would encourage you submit a document either as an individuals or as part of any organisation you’re a member of.

Such opportunities to be part of the process rarely come along and thus should be taken advantage of. Help Not Harm cannot assist with writing your submission, as we have our own to complete, but if you have any questions or need advice then please contact us.

Help Not Harm look forward to attending the launch of the public consultation next week and then engaging in the process. You can follow us on Facebook and Twitter to get updates from the launch of the public consultation and to stay informed of our other work.

Don’t forget about our medical cannabis summit in Dublin which takes place in less than two weeks.

Brian Houlihan is a member of Help Not Harm which seeks to shift the emphasis of Irish drug policy from criminal justice to public health.