Home > Dail Eireann debate. Priority question 1 - National Drugs Strategy [Head shops] [18864/08].

[Oireachtas] Dail Eireann debate. Priority question 1 - National Drugs Strategy [Head shops] [18864/08]. (15 May 2008)

External website: https://www.oireachtas.ie/en/debates/debate/dail/2...

1. Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs  his views on head shops which sell legal highs; the action he will take to tackle the proliferation of such shops in which a large variety of mind altering and potentially dangerous substances can be bought over the counter; if his attention has been drawn to the risks involved in taking these substances and the potential for these substances to become a gateway to experimentation with illegal substances. [18864/08]

Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív: I am aware of the activity of head shops and their sale of so called “legal highs”, substances that can have effects similar to those of illicit substances but which are currently not scheduled under the misuse of drugs legislation. The control of drugs is regulated by the Department of Health and Children under the Misuse of Drugs Acts 1977 and 1984. Under these Acts the importation, exportation, production, supply and possession of a range of named narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances are regulated and controlled. The list of scheduled substances is kept under review on an ongoing basis. In particular, the Department of Health and Children reviews any evidence that substances are being abused and are causing significant harm to public health.

Such reviews encompass EU decisions on any substances. For example, in March this year the EU found that Benzylpiperazine, which I will call BZP as it is shorter and easier, should be made a controlled substance with regulations applying commensurate with the potential harm involved. Accordingly, the Department of Health and Children will introduce the regulation of this substance by March next year. As “legal highs” are currently not controlled substances, there is no authority under the misuse of drugs legislation to prevent their sale in head shops. However, the activities of these establishments will continue to be monitored with a view to endeavouring to minimise any risks involved, especially in regard to the potential that the substances involved might encourage experimentation with illegal drugs.

Deputy Catherine Byrne: I congratulate the Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach, Deputy Pat Carey, on his new appointment and welcome a counterpart across the room, Deputy Curran. I wish them both the best. I thank the Minister for his answer. I cannot pronounce the name of the drug either, so I will refer to it as BZP. I will briefly make a few observations on the Minister’s answer. I am delighted something will be done by March next year but it is somewhat far away as it will come in much earlier in the UK and other places. Some 24 of these shops are established throughout the country and there are grave concerns among parents on their activities particularly regarding the sale of mind-altering substances such as BZP. For many young people going out in the evening BZP has replaced ecstasy and other drugs that were previously used. The real concern is that yesterday’s newspaper reported research from the Health Research Board showing the prevalence of treated problem drug use among 15 to 64 year olds increased by 15% between 2001 and 2006. The sooner this drug is taken off the shelves the better for everybody and I ask the Minister to reconsider the timeline and do this earlier.

Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív: My Department is not responsible for taking BZP off the market. The information says it will happen not later than March. I am always wary of giving deadlines because one is often beaten on a short deadline while one is more likely to be able to comply with a long deadline. It should be done as soon as possible and I share the Deputy’s concern. On the wider question she raised, one can take legal action only against those who break the law and we must accept this issue on these head shops.

Deputy Catherine Byrne: The sooner these products are taken off the market the better for everybody.

Vol. 654 No. 3
Priority Questions
Thursday, 15 May 2008

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