National Drugs Strategy.
185. Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Health and Children the steps she will take to regulate and ban substances sold in head shops; and if she will make a statement on the matter.
201. Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Health and Children the steps she will take and the progress made regulating and banning products sold in head shops; and if she will make a statement on the matter.
Minister for Health and Children (Deputy Mary Harney): I propose to take Questions Nos. 185 and 201 together.
The Misuse of Drugs Act 1977 and its associated regulations control the import, export, production, supply and possession of a range of named narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances listed in the Schedules to the Act. Substances are scheduled under the Act in accordance with Ireland’s obligations under international conventions and/or where there is evidence that the substances are causing significant harm to public health in Ireland.
The list of scheduled substances is kept under ongoing review. For example, in 2006 psychotropic (‘magic’) mushrooms were banned and their possession and sale is now illegal. On 31 March 2009, BZP was similarly subjected to legislative control measures and criminal sanctions.
In the light of the health risks associated with some of the products being sold in so-called ‘head shops’, I intend to have the regulations drafted this month which will introduce controls, similar to those introduced recently in the UK, on a range of substances which are currently on sale in head shops. In accordance with EU law, it may also be necessary to notify the Commission of the proposed regulations in case they impact on legitimate industrial activities and this imposes a 3 month stand still period on implementation of the regulations. These regulations will make the possession and sale of these substances illegal and subject to criminal sanctions.
Some of the substances in question have legitimate uses — for example, in the production of plastics and industrial solvents. It will be necessary to assess the level of use of these substances by industry in Ireland and the implications for industry of placing these substances under the ambit of Misuse of Drugs legislation.
The Minister of State, Deputy John Curran, who has responsibility for co-ordinating the National Drugs Strategy, has identified head shops as an area of concern, and is currently considering the options available to more effectively control the activities of head shops.
A Research Advisory Group (RAG) has been established to identify possible options for the regulation of head shops. The RAG held its first meeting on 13 January 2010. It has representatives from the National Advisory Committee on Drugs, the Departments of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Health and Children, the Health Research Board, Revenue Custom’s Service, the Forensic State Laboratory and other relevant stakeholders. The RAG will report incrementally until its work is complete.
Vol. 703 No. 1
Written Answers – National Drugs Strategy
Tuesday, 23 February 2010