05 Jul 2018

Time to radically overhaul Ireland’s drug laws

Time to radically overhaul Ireland’s drug laws, says retired Assistant Garda Commissioner, Jack Nolan, in an exclusive Hot Press interview.

In a landmark interview in the new issue of Hot Press, recently retired Assistant Garda Commissioner, Jack Nolan, says that he’s in favour of decriminalising people found in possession of drugs for personal use.

“The person at the end of the food chain, who suffers on the street, has been somewhat forgotten about,” reflects the 40-year veteran of the force. “Using the criminal court and the law enforcement model for the people unfortunate enough to have become addicted to drugs is probably not the best approach… We’ve had 41 years of the Misuse of Drugs Act; it’s time now to look at different options.”

It’s unlikely that Jack Nolan’s highlighting of decriminalisation will have gone unnoticed by his former Garda colleagues or the State Working Group, chaired by Mr. Justice Garrett Sheehan, who later this year will deliver their report on future drug policy to the Minister of State, Catherine Byrne TD.

“Seeing somebody die down a laneway isn’t something that should be allowed to happen in a modern democratic society,” continues Nolan who’s travelled twice to Lisbon this year to study the Portuguese decriminalisation model – and was impressed by what he saw.

“I met some highly experienced people from the health rehabilitation side who talked about there being around 100,000 addicts in 2001 and that now being reduced down to about 50,000, which is still a huge number, but very much in the right direction.

“I met Municipal Police officers who’d been serving prior to decriminalisation in 2001, and only heard positive comments in relation to how the matter is dealt with.”

Nolan also highlights the failure of current drug policy to prevent one of the highest drug overdose rates in the world – “The conversation about deaths from drugs needs to be raised to another other level,” he maintains – and how young lives are being blighted by unhelpful convictions.

“There are opportunities in the debate that’s now commencing in this country to decriminalise possession of smaller amounts of drugs rather than impacting on the life chances of somebody from an employment or travel perspective,” he states.

Read the full, potentially game-changing interview in the new issue of Hot Press, out on Thursday July 5.