By Marcus Keane, for The Journal.ie

Last Friday, the government launched its policy on Ireland’s approach to the possession of small amounts of drugs for personal use, following the report of the working group set up to examine the issue. In essence, the new policy adopts a staged approach to dealing with possession.

The first time a person is caught, they will be diverted for a (mandatory) health assessment with HSE. The second time, the gardaí will have the option to apply an adult caution under the adult cautioning scheme. The third time, the person will have used all their chances and will face criminal prosecution.

For those who have been following the policy as it developed to this stage, they will know that this is a policy born of compromise – an attempt to reconcile health and criminal justice in the context of personal drug use. However, there should have been no compromise, personal drug use is a health issue, pure and simple.

As a result, the policy is not likely to achieve its goals – adopting a health led approach, connecting people who use drugs with health services and breaking down the stigma associated with drug use.

In this piece, we look at the main reasons as to why this is the case.