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Ireland Citizens’ Assembly to hear voices of those affected by drugs

Members will hear from individuals, families and frontline workers who have been affected by drug use.



Irish government medical cannabis
The second meeting of Ireland's Citizens' Assembly on drug use will take place this weekend.

The second meeting of Ireland’s Citizens’ Assembly on drugs will focus on the lived experience of individuals, families and frontline workers who have been affected by drug use, when it takes place this weekend.

The Citizens’ Assembly on Drugs Use will hold its second meeting from Saturday 13th-Sunday 14th May, in Dublin Castle, where attention will turn to the lived experience of drug use and its impact on individuals, families, front-line workers and communities.

The Citizens’ Assembly, which is made up of 99 members of the public and its chair Paul Reid, was launched earlier this year with the aim of making recommendations on the country’s drug policy.

The inaugural meeting which took place from 15-16 April provided members with an overview on national drugs policy, current trends and patterns in drugs use, and international and European perspectives on drugs use and policies.

On Saturday, members will hear from a range of speakers during four panel discussions. Sunday’s meeting will include a visit to Coolmine and Merchants’ Quay Ireland treatment centres, where members will have the opportunity to witness services and speak with staff and those who use the facilities.

The meeting is said to have been informed by the Assembly’s ‘Lived Experience Group’ that has been tasked with specifically ensuring that the experiences of individual drug users and their families are represented during the process.

Speaking ahead of the meeting Mr Reid said this weekend has been designed to address part of the Assembly’s Terms of Reference that ask it to consider the harmful impacts of drug use on individuals, families, communities and wider society.

“The story of drugs use in Ireland is the story of the people who use drugs, their families, and their communities. Any consideration of what recommendations the Assembly can or should make has to have their perspective to the fore. That is why we have structured this weekend’s meeting to focus on their voices and stories,” he commented.

“Through personal testimonies, site visits to treatment centres, and conversations with those at the front-line of work in our communities to treat, help and support people who use drugs use, we will have the chance to witness first-hand the true experience of drugs use. I want to thank the members of the Assembly’s Lived Experience Group for assisting us in developing this weekend’s agenda.”

The handling of the Assembly has faced some criticism from experts in health, drug policy and support services, who in an open letter, accused the process of lacking integrity and transparency.

Mr Reid is the former CEO of Ireland’s Health Service Executive (HSE), sparking concerns that he is too closely associated with the country’s existing drug policy.

Some drug reform advocates have also questioned the appointment of members of the Cannabis Risk Alliance, a group of doctors which have spoken out against legalisation, to the Advisory Support Group which was established prior to the first meeting taking place and without public consultation.

Members of the public, stakeholders and interested groups are now being urged to make submissions to the Assembly through its public consultation process on any issue relevant to its Terms of Reference.

Over 350 submissions are said to have been received so far, all of which are expected to be shared with members to support and inform deliberations.

Mr Reid added: “From the very beginning of this Citizens’ Assembly, we have been aware of huge interest from the general public and stakeholder groups in the work of the Assembly. It’s clear that drugs use affects every community across Ireland, and that many people have strong views on what should, or should not, be done to address the issues. We are now inviting submissions from the general public and stakeholder groups, and hope to hear a diverse range of perspectives on this important question.”

The Assembly sessions are available to watch live via

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Sarah Sinclair is a respected cannabis journalist writing on subjects related to science, medicine, research, health and wellness. She is managing editor of Cannabis Health, the UK’s leading title covering medical cannabis and CBD, and sister titles, Cannabis Wealth and Psychedelic Health. Sarah has an NCTJ journalism qualification and an MA in Journalism from the University of Sunderland. Sarah has over six years experience working on newspapers, magazines and digital-first titles, the last two of which have been in the cannabis sector. She has also completed training through the Medical Cannabis Clinicians Society securing a certificate in Medical Cannabis Explained. She is a member of PLEA’s (Patient-Led Engagement for Access) advisory board, has hosted several webinars on cannabis and women's health and has moderated at industry events such as Cannabis Europa. Sarah Sinclair is the editor of Cannabis Health. Got a story? Email / Follow us on Twitter: @CannabisHNews / Instagram: @cannabishealthmag


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