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Home > 29. Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if, in view of the recent controversy surrounding headshops, proposals are in place to increase awareness of the negative effects of consuming psychoactive substances. [14059/10]

[Oireachtas] 29. Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if, in view of the recent controversy surrounding headshops, proposals are in place to increase awareness of the negative effects of consuming psychoactive substances. [14059/10]. (01 Apr 2010)

URL: http://debates.oireachtas.ie/dail/2010/04/01/00036...


National drugs strategy

29. Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if, in view of the recent controversy surrounding headshops, proposals are in place to increase awareness of the negative effects of consuming psychoactive substances, which can be bought legally in headshops; if not, if measures will be put in place to highlight the downside of using such substances; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
 
44. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if, in view of his Department’s responsibility for the national drugs strategy, he will introduce legislation to address problems associated with headshops; his views on the establishment of a regulatory authority with the power to fast track the banning of dangerous substances, to provisionally ban substances in the interest of public health while further research on a substance is conducted and to otherwise restrict and control the production and sale of all non-medicinal psychoactive substances.
 
Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs (Deputy Pat Carey): I propose to take Questions Nos. 29 and 44 together.
 
I can assure the Deputies that I share the concerns to which they refer regarding the activities of headshops and the new psychoactive substances, represented as “legal highs”, which are being sold in these outlets.
 
Indeed, my colleague, Mr John Curran, T.D., while Minister of State with responsibility for the National Drugs Strategy, voiced similar concerns on many occasions and held a number of meetings with the Ministers for Health & Children, Justice, Equality & Law Reform and Education & Science. He also met with the Garda Commissioner and with senior officials of various Departments and Offices. Headshops and the sale of “legal highs” were discussed at many of these meetings and various approaches to addressing the activities of these outlets were considered.
 
Through the Misuse of Drugs Act — which is the primary legislation through which these substances can be regulated — the Department of Health and Children is currently finalising regulations to introduce controls on a range of substances. These regulations will make the possession and sale of these substances illegal and subject to criminal sanctions. In preparing the required regulations, that Department is consulting with the relevant authorities to ensure that any legitimate uses of the substances involved are not impinged upon.
 
Meanwhile, the Government has approved the commencement of a required notification process to the EU and it is envisaged that the regulations controlling the various substances will come into effect in late June, at the conclusion of the three month process involved. Such notification is required under the relevant EU Technical Standards Directives, as controls under the Misuse of Drugs Act involve a restriction on trade. For example, some of the products involved can be used in the manufacture of plastics and industrial solvents, and the European Medicines Agency reported in late January that one such product — mephedrone — has the potential to be used in the manufacture of some medicines. While the establishment of a mechanism to fast-track the banning of dangerous substances would have some appeal, this is not envisaged at present as it is seen as vital that all regulatory controls introduced meet all requirements and are fully robust to meet any legal challenges subsequently arising.
 
Meanwhile, the National Advisory Committee on Drugs has been asked to carry out some research in this area. In addition, the activities of headshops are being closely monitored on an ongoing basis by An Garda Síochána and Revenue’s Customs Service with a view to ensuring that no substances that are currently illegal are being sold.
 
My Department has also been in contact with the Attorney General about a range of possible approaches to the matter and a number of issues arising in that context are being considered at senior level within an inter-departmental framework.
 
In relation to increasing awareness of the negative effects of consuming psychoactive substances, the HSE, in association with its partners under the Drugs Strategy, are currently finalising a National Drugs Awareness Campaign that will focus on psychoactive substances legally available through headshops. This campaign will be aimed primarily at 15-40 year olds, as well as at parents and service providers. The key message of the campaign will be that “legal does not mean safe” and it will aim to raise awareness of the risks to mental and physical health associated with these substances.
 
National and local initiatives will be integrated under the campaign, with Drugs Task Forces playing a key role in publicising the information in their respective communities. The upgraded www.drugs.ie website will also be promoted as a primary source of relevant and accurate information, along with utilising existing HSE help/information lines. The HSE is also updating the ‘Facts about Drugs’ booklet and their Parent Information Guide to include information on psychoactive substances. An information booklet for service providers will be available in conjunction with the launch of the campaign in the coming weeks.
 
In conclusion, I can assure the Deputies that I will continue to work with my Ministerial colleagues in vigorously pursuing all viable approaches to counter the potential threats posed by headshops and “legal highs”.

 

Vol. 706 No. 2
Written Answers – National Drug Strategy
Thursday, 1 April 2010

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