Home > Misuse of Drugs (Amendment) Act 2016.

Guiney, Ciara (2016) Misuse of Drugs (Amendment) Act 2016. Drugnet Ireland, Issue 59, Autumn 2016, pp. 4-5.

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Following increased drug-related violence and the emergence of new psychoactive substances to the Irish drug market, it became necessary to expedite a shortened version of the Misuse of Drugs (Amendment) Act 2016 (2016, 6 July)1, which was enacted on 27 July 2016.  The aim of the Act is to amend schedules from the Misuse of Drugs Acts 1977‒2015.2


The Misuse of Drugs Acts 1977‒2015 is the main legislation that aims to protect society from the impact of drugs in Ireland. Protection is provided by firstly controlling access to substances that can be harmful if abused, e.g. benzodiazepines and heroin, via ministerial regulations and orders. This ensures that controlled drugs are used safely. Secondly, by setting up a system that controls substances that are viewed as unsafe or destructive when not used for therapeutic reasons. Due to the transient and ever-changing nature of the drugs and the drug market, this Act is constantly monitored and updated.


Provisions of the new Act

The main provisions of the 2016 Act include the addition of new substances, revocation of regulations and orders confirmed in the Misuse of Drugs (Amendment) Act 2015,3 and some technical amendments.


Addition of new substances

A number of new substances are to be added to the existing list of controlled substances: 

  • Zopiclone
  • Zaleplon
  • Phenazepam
  • Lisdexamfetamine
  • Clockwork Orange
  • MT-45
  • 25B-NBOMe
  • 25C-NBOMe
  • 4,4’-DMAR

The inclusions will allow law enforcement authorities to deal more effectively with the illegal trafficking in Ireland, for example, on-street dealing of prescription medication, some of which are not controlled by current legislation.4 In addition, it will allow Ireland to fulfil its obligations in accordance with EU directives, such as EU Council Decision 2005/387/JHA5 − which demands information exchange, risk assessment, and control of new psychoactive substances − the United Nations Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs 19616 and Convention on Psychotropic Substances 1971.7 

Revocation of ministerial regulations and orders

Section 3 of the Act amends section 5 of the Misuse of Drugs Act and allows the Minister for Health to revoke ministerial regulations and orders confirmed by the Misuse of Drugs (Amendment) Act 2015.2 The aim of this amendment is to enable the Minister to create new regulations or orders as necessary to control new substances under the Act.


Technical amendments

To allow the commencement of a section in the Irish Medicines Board (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2006,8 responsibility for issuing licences under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1977 will be reassigned from the Minister for Health to the Health Products Regulatory Authority. Finally, following alterations to the Nurses and Midwives Act 2011,9 the reference to nurses and midwives in the Misuse of Drugs Act 1977 will be brought up to date.



The Act involves a two-step process. Controlling substances are dealt with in the first stage of the Act. This will be followed by the drafting of regulations that will enable legitimate users (e.g. patients with prescriptions) access to controlled substances. The Act will commence when appropriate regulations are in place.


Extensive debate

As the Act progressed through the Dáil and Seanad, extensive debate occurred between deputies. Predominantly, the Act is welcomed by many. In light of recent events in Ireland, Deputy John Lahart purported that it was clear that there was a necessity to reinforce the legislation around drug misuse (p. 597).4 Deputy Jack Chambers argued that allowing law enforcement agencies to pursue gangs that control the supply and sale of drugs was an essential route to targeting drug-related crime in Ireland (p. 595).4 However, numerous concerns were raised that the Act was not going to address the root causes of the problem. For example:


  • Deputy Jonathan O’Brien purported that the Act was being rushed at the request of An Garda Síochána and raised concerns that neither drug service providers nor medical practitioners were consulted. He further argued that the Act ‘will criminalise vulnerable drug addicts’ and purported that a model of decriminalisation of drugs for personal use was necessary. This, he argued, should be centred on evidence, based on international best practice, for example, the Portuguese model. He cautioned that thus far the introduction of this kind of Act went against ministerial talk about availing of evidence-based practice, which seemed to be ignored in this instance (pp`. 600‒04).4
  • Deputy Louise O’Reilly viewed the Act as solving only half the problem, namely drug crime, and did not address any measures to provide support to help addicts, nor did it address the socioeconomic impacts of addiction nor the issue of drugs overall. Deputy O’Reilly argued that although this legislation would alter drug-related antisocial behaviour, and increase Garda presence and capability, it was not targeting the root causes of the problem (pp. 604‒06).4
  • Deputy Maurice Quinlivan argued that ‘criminalising young people who, more often than not, are already disadvantaged is a lazy and bankrupt response of what is an exceptionally serious issue …. the legislation will not work as it offers nothing to address the root causes of this problem, which are disadvantage, marginalisation and the political indifference of the middle classes’ (p. 53)(2016, 7 July).10
  • Another issue raised was the lack of resources and funding. 

This is the first step of a series of approaches that are being taken to target the drug problem in Ireland. A further Misuse of Drugs (Amendment) Bill is due to be presented in the autumn term, which aims to establish supervised injection rooms.



1 Misuse of Drugs (Amendment) Act 2016 as initiated. Available online at http://www.oireachtas.ie/documents/bills28/acts/2016/A0916.pdf

2 Misuse of Drugs Act 1977. Available online at http://www.irishstatutebook.ie/eli/1977/act/12/enacted/en/html

3 Misuse of Drugs (Amendment) Act 2015. Available online at http://www.irishstatutebook.ie/eli/2015/act/6/enacted/en/pdf

4 (2016, 6 July). Dail Eireann debate. Misuse of Drugs (Amendment) Bill 2016: second stage. Vol 916 No 3. https://www.drugsandalcohol.ie/25774/ 5 EU Council Decision 2005/387/JHA. Available online at http://www.emcdda.europa.eu/topics/law/drug-law-texts?pluginMethod=eldd.showlegaltextdetail&id=3301&lang=en&T=2

6 United Nations Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs 1961. Available online at https://www.unodc.org/pdf/convention_1961_en.pdf

7 Convention on Psychotropic Substances 1971. Available online at https://www.unodc.org/pdf/convention_1971_en.pdf  

8 Irish Medicines Board (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2006. Available online at http://www.irishstatutebook.ie/eli/2006/act/3/enacted/en/html

9 Nurses and Midwives Act 2011. Available online at http://www.irishstatutebook.ie/eli/2011/act/41/enacted/en/print

10 (2016, 7 July). Dail Eireann debate. Misuse of Drugs (Amendment) Bill 2016: second stage (resumed). Vol 917 No 1 https://www.drugsandalcohol.ie/25797/


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