By Cormac O’Keeffe, Security Correspondant for Irish Examiner,
Drug organisations in favour of decriminalisation have described as a “move in the right direction” a legal change allowing gardaí to caution, rather than charge, people caught in possession of cannabis for their own personal use.
The development, announced by Garda HQ today, applies, primarily, to a first offence and only to cannabis.
Under the changes to the Adult Caution Scheme, gardaí will still retain their discretion to prosecute if they believe it is not appropriate in the circumstances to give a caution.
The change in relation to cannabis possession has been a Garda/DPP proposal for some four years now and runs parallel to a wider reform of Government policy towards possession of all drugs.
But unlike the recommendation of the 2016 Working Group on Alternatives to Prosecution (WGAP) and the August 2019 Government Working Group to Consider Alternative Approaches to the Possession of Drugs for Personal Use – which recommend changes apply to all drugs – the Garda directive solely applies to cannabis.
Anna Quigley of the Citywide Drugs Crisis Campaign, which has advocated decriminalisation of possession of all drugs, said: “Citywide has a clear position that people who are in possession of drugs for personal use should not be criminalised, as the evidence shows that criminalisation has no positive impact and can have a lot of negative impact on people’s lives.
"This change to the Adult Caution is moving in the right direction, but obviously given our position we would like to see more significant change in the current criminal status of people who are in possession of drugs for their personal use.”