Internationally, there is a growing understanding and acceptance that policy approaches to personal drug use which rely on the punishment of the individual cause avoidable harms and need to change. A number of evidence-based policy options are available that offer opportunities to improve outcomes for public health and reduce drug-related harm to people who use drugs and their communities, and thereby contribute to reducing social iniquities. One of these policy options is the decriminalisation of drug offences related to personal use (hereinafter, ‘decriminalisation’). Across the globe, a number of jurisdictions have implemented some form of decriminalisation. There is equally a lot of work focused on bringing about progressive change in this policy space ongoing around the world.

The Ana Liffey Drug Project (ALDP), supported by the Global Drug Policy Program of the Open Society Foundations (OSF), invited some advocates for decriminalisation from around Europe to join a two-day meeting in February 2020. The meeting took place in Dunboyne, Ireland, and brought together delegates to share their experiences in advocating for decriminalisation in their own countries and to benefit from the insights of others.

This paper provides some key insights from this event, and from conversations which followed it, with largely the same group of advocates. At its core, this paper has a peer-to-peer focus. The target audience is primarily people who are advocating for decriminalisation in their own jurisdictions, or who are considering doing so. Public health, community safety and criminal justice stakeholders more generally may also find it of interest. The aim is to provide insights from ‘in the field’, sharing the views and experiences of people actively working on advocacy projects related to decriminalisation. It does not purport to be a full or academic treatment of the issue – rather, it is intended to provide insights that can help advocates frame and focus their work.