Decriminalisation Evidence Base

decrim 2It is Citywide's view that drug use should be addressed as a social and health issue rather than as a criminal justice issue. We support decriminalisation of possession of drugs for personal use. We do not believe any person should be deemed a criminal simply because he/she uses a drug.  Criminalising a person for drug use can affect their whole future and can negatively impact in many aspects of their lives, including employment, training, future travel, and insurance.

We believe that addressing the social and health issues relating to drug use is a more positive and effective approach, both for the drug user and for wider society. Decriminalisation is not a panacea for problem drug use, and it will require resources and investment, however, it is clear that the consequences of drug use are made worse by addressing them through the criminal justice system rather than the health system.

In 2022 there were 12,136 recorded offences for possession of drugs for personal use in Ireland. This figure represents 70% of all drugs offences for that year. 

Irish law defines possession of drugs for personal use as a criminal offence and decriminalisation means repeal of this law.  Possession of drugs for sale or supply remains a criminal offence. The introduction of decriminalisation would provide a policy framework for our response to drug use to be implemented through a social and public health approach rather than through a criminal justice one. 

In this website we present the evidence on the impacts of current policies around the world on criminalisation and decriminalisation. This evidence has been drawn from three recent overviews of the international evidence. The web site also provides information on the state of policy and legislation on controlled drugs at international and national level, and the options for decriminalising drug possession for personal use.


The evidence in this website was compiled by Brigid Pike, formerly Researcher, Irish Focal point for the European Monitoring Centre on Drugs and Drug Addiction,  in the HRB, who put a huge amount of work on a voluntary basis into developing the evidence base.  Citywide would like to express our sincere thanks and appreciation to Brigid for her exceptional input and commitment, without which this website would not have been possible.  We would also like to acknowledge the invaluable insights and support of Niamh Eastwood, Release and Ann Fordham IDPC