Home > Dail Eireann debate. Written answer 177 - National Drugs Strategy [Head shops] [39806/09].

[Oireachtas] Dail Eireann debate. Written answer 177 - National Drugs Strategy [Head shops] [39806/09]. (05 Nov 2009)

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177. Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if his attention has been drawn to the proliferation of “head” shops which have opened here; his views on same; if his further attention has been drawn to the products on sale through these outlets; his further views on whether the consumption of such products might lead to the involvement in the consumption of illicit substances and that some of the substances on sale in these outlets should be banned in the interest of public health and safety; if community groups have raised concerns with him about these outlets; the action he will take or the legislation he will bring forward in this area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39806/09]

Minister of State at the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs (Deputy John Curran):  I am aware of the growth in the number of Head Shops and the activities of these shops selling substances that are represented as being “legal highs” or “herbal highs”. These products are currently not scheduled under the Misuse of Drugs legislation, but may have effects similar to those of illicit substances. Community groups, amongst others, have raised their concerns with me and two of the major issues raised relate to the potential health hazard that the products may represent and their potential to act as a gateway to illicit drug use.

Actions 14 and 15 of the new National Drugs Strategy were developed to address the widely held concerns in this regard by committing to:

  • Monitoring the activities of headshops, and all businesses involved in the sale of psychoactive substances, with the objective of ensuring that no illegal activity is undertaken.
  • Keeping drugs-related legislation under continuous review, with particular focus on new synthetic substances, new or changed uses of psychoactive substances, and against the background of EU and broader international experience and best practice.
  • Ensuring that steps are taken to reform legislation in this respect where it is deemed to be appropriate.

I also raised the issue at the initial meeting of the Oversight Forum on Drugs (OFD), which I chair, a few weeks ago. As a result of discussions at that meeting, a number of avenues are being explored to see what action can best be taken to minimise the impact of the activities of these shops.

The Deputy will be aware that the Department of Health & Children has the main statutory responsibility in the area. Under the Misuse of Drugs 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, that Department reviews any evidence that substances are being abused and are causing significant harm to public health. Such reviews can encompass EU decisions in regard to any substances, as happened in regard to BZP (Benzylpiperazine) but also decisions can be made unilaterally by each State, as it considers appropriate. The Early Warning Emerging Trends Committee (EWET) of the National Advisory Committee on Drugs (NACD) are also currently looking at the issues involved and are continuing to monitor developments at international level.

As ‘legal highs’ are currently not controlled substances, there is no authority under the Misuse of Drugs legislation to prevent their sale in headshops. The activities of these establishments are, however, consistently monitored by both the Garda Síochána and Revenue’s Custom Service with a view to ensuring that no illegal substances are sold from these premises.

Vol. 692 No. 6

Written Answers. National Drugs Strategy

Thursday, 5 November 2009

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