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Home > 323. Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the steps he will take to deal with the dangers of products sold in head shops. [8749/10]

[Oireachtas] 323. Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the steps he will take to deal with the dangers of products sold in head shops. [8749/10]. (23 Feb 2010)


323. Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the steps he will take to deal with the dangers of products sold in head shops; the progress made to date; when a conclusion to this work will be expected; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister of State at the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs (Deputy John Curran):  I have voiced my concerns in regard to the activities of headshops and substances represented as “legal highs” sold in these outlets on numerous occasions since my appointment as Minister of State with responsibility for the National Drugs Strategy. The problem of “legal highs” is not unique to Ireland and headshops are causing concern across Europe. A number of countries, including the UK, have taken action, each taking their own approach to the matter in line with their own laws and experiences. However, no EU Member State has come up with a comprehensive response thus far. I have raised the issue of headshops, and the substances they sell, at various fora with a view to having measures implemented to address the dangers involved. A number of avenues are being explored to ascertain what actions might best be pursued in that regard.
My colleague, Mary Harney, T.D., Minister for Health & Children — who has overall responsibility for the Misuse of Drugs Act, the primary legislation through which these substances can be regulated — has indicated that her Department is currently preparing 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, officials of the Department of Health & Children are consulting with the relevant authorities to ensure that any legitimate uses of the substances involved are not impinged upon. The intention is that the regulations will be drafted within a month but a three month notification process to the EU may be involved. The advice of the Attorney General on the EU requirements has been sought by the Department of Health & Children in advance of the implementation of regulations.
Also, at my request, the National Advisory Committee on Drugs (NACD) is carrying out some research on psychoactive substances sold in headshops. The NACD has established a Research Advisory Group for this project and they provided their first interim report to me last week, with recommendations for the regulation of a broad range of substances. I have endorsed this report and forwarded it to the Minister for Health & Children, urging that the advice of the NACD be taken fully into account in formulating regulations.
Meanwhile, the activities of headshops are also being closely monitored on an on-going 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.
In addition, following correspondence with the Attorney General regarding other possible approaches to the matter, I have raised issues around public liability insurance, product liability insurance and consumer protection with the Minister for Enterprise, Trade & Employment, as well as planning issues with the Minister for the Environment, Heritage & Local Government. The matters involved are being considered by their Departments and I expect to have their views shortly. From the range of approaches outlined, the Deputy can be assured that I am very committed to pursuing appropriate and comprehensive responses to counter the potential threats of headshops and “legal highs”.
Vol. 703 No. 1  
Written Answers – National Drugs Strategy
Tuesday, 23 February 2010

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