Written by Cork Institute of Technology SSDP chapter leader Martin Condon.
In April of 1964, Raifiu Ojikuto, a 26-year-old Nigerian medical student living at Pembroke Cottages, Ballsbridge was arrested for possession of Purple Hearts (amphetamine stimulant tablets), becoming the first person in Irish history to be arrested on drugs charges. He was found dead in his home by gardaí after he failed to appear in the Dublin District Court. His death was not treated as suspicious. Since then Ireland has only increased in the number of people being charged with drug related crimes.
At the moment Ireland is at the brink of some positive drug policy reform for the first time in almost 40 years. In 2016 it is expected that Ireland will see its first “medically supervised injection centers” (MSIC) where people can inject substances like heroin in a much safer environment than some back alley or bus station toilet. It also decreased the chances that they might leave a dirty needle lying around that could potentially prick an unsuspecting, innocent child, something that has happened in the past on a Dublin city bus.This has been brought on by a growing heroin problem in Ireland which originated in the 1970s in the capital city of Dublin, eventually spreading slowly over many years into other areas of the country. In Cork, the number of registered “heroin addicts” using treatment services increased since 2004 from 20 people to well over 500 people.
The current drug policies have not lived up to their purpose; they need to be changed as our issues with drugs should be dealt with as a health issue, not a criminal health issue. I was speaking with a friend the other day who was telling me about their 13 year old nephew who was caught by his mother with text messages in his phone from his 11 year old friend. In the message the nephew was looking to buy €30 worth of cannabis between him and two of his other friends (€10 each). The reply back was scarier as his 11 year old dealer’s 9 year old brother was storing the cannabis in his room.
These kids should not be exposed to the dangers of these substances and the places in which they currently come from. Currently with illegal drugs there is no quality control and there is certainly nothing stopping a criminal from selling these kids some heroin.
The better option for Ireland in this instance would be to create some sort of controlled supply system for “softer” drugs like cannabis. By removing them from the criminal underground, ensuring quality of the products, and restricting the supply to minors as we do with alcohol, we can create a much more SENSIBLE drug policy.