Gay Byrne’s recent comments about whether we should consider legalising drugs is a interesting contribution to debate that for too long has been stagnant and seems to involve too many people who have a vested interest in the current situation continuing rather than it ending.
Looking at the facts of the premise that he starts from that the “War on drugs” as fought for the last 40/50 years has failed is absolutely correct. Drug consumption has increased and it spans all social and economic classes. We are expending every increasing resources on trying to stop the supply and we devote far more of our resources toward tackling supply compared to demand.
And despite the fact that drugs do affect everyone, it is still the case that the vast majority of those most directly impacted by drugs are those from the most disadvantaged communities, those with the lowest school leaving standard of education and the highest rates of unemployment. Day in, day out, children in these areas are giving a demonstration of the vast monies to be made from breaking the law as they see dealers in the neighbourhoods.
Of every time someone uses drugs they are taking a risk. There again every time you cross the street you are taking a risk, we build pedestrian crossing and education people to know the risks. We do not ban crossing the road.
Of course, Ireland or indeed any number of EU countries acting in concert could not and should not take an unilateral steps to legalise drugs while sharing common travels zones with countries that have not and would not make such a change. However, if there was a joint decision to be made what might that approach look like. I would suggest that it would be very different to that outlined by Patrick Kenny in the Irish Examiner today March 1st