Home > Dail Eireann debate. Written answer 293 - Drugs education [Head shops] [5457/10].

[Oireachtas] Dail Eireann debate. Written answer 293 - Drugs education [Head shops] [5457/10]. (03 Feb 2010)

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293. Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs his plans to curb the proliferation of head shops here; the way he will inform and educate young persons regarding the dangers of legal highs which can have devastating effects; if he will connect drugs taskforces and schools to ensure that children and teenagers are made aware of the risks of experimenting with these substances; and if he will make a statement on the matter. 

Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs (Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív): I have voiced my concerns in regard to the activities of headshops, and substances represented as “legal highs”, on numerous occasions since my appointment as Minister of State with responsibility for the National Drugs Strategy. My concerns in relation to these substances centre on the potential health hazards arising from the use of these products; and the possibility that their use may act as a gateway to the use of illicit drugs. This issue is causing concern across Europe and a number of countries, including the UK, have taken action, each adapting their approach to reflect their laws and experiences. However, no EU Member State has come up with a comprehensive response thus far.
The National Drugs Strategy 2009-2016, which I launched in September 2009, includes two actions aimed at addressing the issues involved: 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 and ensuring that steps are taken to reform legislation in this respect where it is deemed to be appropriate; and 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.
As provided for under the Strategy, I held a number of meetings in late 2009 with the Ministers for Health & Children, Justice, Equality & Law Reform and Education & Science. I have 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 some possibilities for addressing the activities of headshops were suggested.
Following more recent communication with 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, she has indicated that her Department is currently preparing further regulations that will introduce controls on a range of substances. Furthermore, the activities of these establishments are being 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.
I have also been in contact with the Attorney General about other possible approaches to the matter. Associated with this, I have raised issues around public liability insurance, product liability insurance and consumer protection with the Department of Enterprise, Trade & Employment, as well as planning issues with the Department of Environment, Heritage & Local Government. Meanwhile, the National Advisory Committee on Drugs will carry out some research in this area, at my request, taking account in particular of the approach adopted in the legislation recently introduced in the UK.
In addition, the Regional Drugs Task Forces hosted a conference on “legal highs” last week and the large attendance included delegates who are involved with the SPHE programmes in schools. Drugs Task Force personnel will also be connecting with people across their communities to stress the dangers posed by “legal highs”, in particular for younger people.
The Deputy should also note that the HSE’s National Drugs Awareness Campaign for 2010 will focus on creating awareness of the facts in relation to drugs that may have significant negative mental and physical health effects and that are currently available legally in Ireland through headshops and/or the internet. The campaign will be aimed primarily at those aged between 15 to 40 years, as well as at creating awareness of the dangers involved among parents and service providers. The Deputy will appreciate from the foregoing that I am strongly committed to pursuing appropriate responses to counter the potential threats of headshops and “legal highs”.
Vol. 701 No. 1  
Written Answers – Drugs Education
Wednesday, 3 February 2010

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