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Home > 118. Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the action he will take regarding head shops. [4327/10]

[Oireachtas] 118. Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the action he will take regarding head shops. [4327/10]. (28 Jan 2010)

URL: http://debates.oireachtas.ie/dail/2010/01/28/00104...


National Drugs Strategy

118. Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the action he will take regarding head shops; 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” — 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, will be addressing the issues involved through two specific actions. These will involve:
      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 taking appropriate steps to reform legislation in this area, where it is deemed to be appropriate; and
      keeping drugs-related legislation under continuous review, with particular focus on new synthetic substances and new or changed uses of psychoactive substances, against the background of EU and broader international experience and best practice.
 
As provided for under the new 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.
 
More recently, I have asked my colleague, Mary Harney T.D., Minister for Health & Children, who has overall responsibility for the Misuse of Drugs Act — which is the primary legislation through which these substances can be regulated — to ensure that every effort is made to expedite the response to this issue through the early control of substances under the Act. I am of the view that immediate steps should be taken to progress this, with the matter being addressed in two tranches if there are particular complications in regard to some substances.
 
Furthermore, it should be noted that the activities of these establishments are being monitored on an on-going basis by both 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 Departments of Environment, Heritage & Local Government. I have also asked the National Advisory Committee on Drugs to carry out some research in this area, taking account in particular of the approach adopted in the legislation recently introduced in the UK. Reflecting the concerns being expressed throughout society, the Midlands Regional Drugs Task Force hosted a conference, which I launched earlier this week, to explore the issues involved. Arising from all this activity, I expect to be able to co-ordinate a full and appropriate response to counter the potential threats involved.
 
Vol. 700 No. 3  
Written Answers – National Drugs Strategy
Thursday, 28 January 2010

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