Home > Dail Eireann debate. Misuse of Drugs (Amendment) Bill 2016 [Seanad]: Second Stage.

[Oireachtas] Dail Eireann debate. Misuse of Drugs (Amendment) Bill 2016 [Seanad]: Second Stage. (06 Jul 2016)

External website: https://www.oireachtas.ie/en/debates/debate/dail/2...

Minister of State at the Department of Health (Deputy Catherine Byrne): I move: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."


I am pleased to introduce the Misuse of Drugs (Amendment) Bill 2016 to the House. Everyone is aware of the devastation that drugs cause to individuals and communities across the State. Recently we have become all too aware of the on-street dealing in prescription medication, some of which is controlled under the misuse of drugs legislation and some of which is not. This Bill is intended to deal with this issue and forms part of an overall package of initial measures being introduced by the Government as a matter of priority to further strengthen the hands of our law enforcement authorities in tackling those involved in gangland crime, the devastating effects of which we have seen in the recent violence in our capital city.


Drug dealers on the street often carry relatively small quantities of drugs on their person which makes it difficult for the authorities to proceed with charges of sale or supply. Drug dealers include drug users and addicts. The primary purpose of this Bill is to aid the law enforcement functions of An Garda Síochána in tackling crime associated with the illegal sale of certain substances. This Bill is not about targeting addicts. It is about disrupting gangs who profit from the on-street sale of dangerous substances and giving An Garda Síochána the power it needs to do so. While the illicit trade in these substances is not confined to any area, it is clear that this trade has been noticeably prominent in the Dublin north inner city area. This is a particular problem which has been highlighted by community groups and representatives from the local area and by political colleagues as one of the priority issues to be addressed as part of the Government’s overall targeted response to issues affecting the north inner city area.


Following the appalling violence witnessed over the past few months, the Government examined measures which could help to tackle organised crime in the north inner city and elsewhere. One such measure, proposed by my colleague, the Minister for Health, Deputy Harris, is to expedite the Misuse of Drugs (Amendment) Bill which had originally been scheduled to be introduced in the autumn of 2016. The Minister decided to bring forward a shortened version of the Bill to aid law enforcement in tackling this serious issue.


This Bill aims to protect public health by bringing under the scope of the misuse of drugs legislation certain substances which are open to misuse and known to be traded on the illicit market. The Bill provides that certain prescription medicines currently being sold illegally on our streets and which are not already controlled drugs, will come under the scope of the Misuse of Drugs Act. These include so-called Z-drugs, such as zopiclone and zaleplon. Controlling the substances in the Bill is part one of a two-step process. Ministerial regulations are required subsequently to determine the level of control which is to apply to each substance and who may legally possess the substances. This would include practitioners and patients. Work is under way on drafting the regulations in my Department. The control of substances under the Bill will only be commenced when the associated regulations are ready. This should happen relatively quickly.


As Deputies are aware, this Bill completed its passage through the Seanad last week. I thank all the Senators who contributed to the debate and who made important contributions on many issues relating to drugs, drugs use, drug addiction, drug services and treatment. There were also contributions on the subject of decriminalising the possession of small quantities of drugs for personal use. I want to reiterate the point I made in the Seanad last week. I do not want to criminalise anybody who takes drugs because of addiction. Some of these addicts fund their addiction through the sale of drugs to others. It is wrong for a person to unlawfully supply a dangerous substance to someone else - it is simply wrong - even if that person’s motivation is to fund their own addiction. That person is interfering with somebody’s life by supplying them with a dangerous or harmful substance, possibly leading to death.


In the Seanad, there was general agreement that consideration should be given to alternatives to criminal sanctions for drug addicts. There was also general agreement that drug dealing should be prevented……..


[For the full debate, click on this link]

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