Home > Dail Eireann debate. Written answer 116 - Misuse of drugs [35258/15].

[Oireachtas] Dail Eireann debate. Written answer 116 - Misuse of drugs [35258/15]. (20 Oct 2015)

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116. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if she will support the need for emergency legislation and measures in relation to the proliferation of tablets in Dublin, where An Garda Síochána cannot act due to various legal loopholes and where these tablets are causing major and significant difficulties in communities [35258/15]


Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): I fully appreciate the concern the Deputy raises regarding the illegal trade in prescription drugs.


Sadly, it is the case that prescription drugs such as the z-drugs and benzodiazepines feature prominently in illicit drug markets in this jurisdiction and are contributing to the problems and harms associated with drug misuse - far from their intended purposes.


I am aware of the particular difficulties this trade can present for policing and I fully concur with the Deputy that it is vitally important that steps are taken to ensure that we support our law enforcement authorities in tackling the problem.


As the Deputy is aware the introduction of legislation governing the control of drugs is a matter which comes under the remit of my colleague, the Minister for Health. I know that this matter was the subject of a topical issues debate in the House last week and as my colleague Minister of State English advised, on behalf of the Minister of State with responsibility for the National Drugs Strategy, Minister of State Ó Ríordáin, it has been acknowledged by the Health authorities that we do need to strengthen our legislative response in this area.


As the Minister of State advised, the Health authorities are conducting a review of the Misuse of Drugs Regulations with a view to introducing substantial additional controls on certain prescription drugs being traded illicitly including benzodiazepines and z-drugs.


As I am sure the Deputy will appreciate controls on prescription medicines are complex bearing in mind that we must take account of the need to facilitate the legitimate supply chain and legitimate use of such products unlike, for example, when dealing with more traditionally controlled substances for which there is little or no legitimate medicinal use.


I am informed by the Department of Health that the review of the existing controls governing the supply of these medicines has required a very detailed process of consultation with the Health authorities engaging with relevant stakeholders including industry, patient organisations, other Government Departments and Agencies and the wider general public.


Of course, consultation has also taken place with officials from my own Department and with the Agencies charged with law enforcement in this area including An Garda Síochána and the Health Products Regulatory Authority.


Arising from this consultation process, and as my colleague Minister of State English confirmed during the debate last week, substantial amendments to the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 1988 are envisaged.


I understand that work was well advanced but was of necessity delayed by virtue of work required on foot of the adverse finding made by the Court of Appeal in March this year concerning the constitutionality of section 2 (2) of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1977. As indicated to the House last week the Department of Health is progressing new legislation in response to this judgment which will facilitate the making of new regulations in the future including those we have discussed today.


I do appreciate the Deputy's call for urgency on this matter. I can fully support the work being done to strengthen controls in relation to these products and I would welcome the new measures being brought forward at the earliest possible opportunity.

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