Many head shop products banned
The sale of a large number of substances found in head shops has been banned today by a Government order that has recategorised the products as illegal drugs.
In a twin-track approach, the Government has moved to ban a list of specified drugs, under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1977, and has agreed to draft legislation that will regulate the sale of drugs by head shops that may have psychoactive effects but are not covered by the Act.
Several head shops closed their doors to the public with immediate effect as the Taoiseach declared the high-street stores “closed until further notice”.
“Hopefully that practical effect will be seen right around the country,” Brian Cowen said.
“We are determined that irresponsible people who want to profit from dangerous substances get the message that Government will not tolerate their reprehensible activities which are actually putting the lives and health of many young people at risk,” he said.
Mr Cowen said that because of the urgency of the matter and formal representations by the Government, the EU Commission facilitated the ban earlier than expected.
Under the Government Order, people convicted of the unlawful supply of the banned products now face life imprisonment. The order becomes law with immediate effect.
It is now an offence to import, export, produce, supply or possess the banned substances where they are to be used for human ingestion, other than as a flavouring in food. People convicted of unlawful possession face up to seven years imprisonment and a fine.
“These substances are dangerous and their sale and promotion have caused huge anxiety to families and communities throughout the country”, Minister for Health Mary Harney announced this afternoon.
The move follows approval of a Government application to the EU Commission in the form of an “urgency procedure” to facilitate the swift introduction of legislation.
The Commission advised Government yesterday legislation could be implemented, without observing the usual three-month consultation period.
“This means that the reckless, irresponsible people who have sold and promoted them must safely dispose of every product containing even one of the substances immediately”, Ms Harney said. “Otherwise they could face criminal prosecution. They cannot sell, supply, possess or distribute this stock, with effect from the start of today,” she continued.
Mrs Harney said she was confident gardaí would enforce the new law rigorously.
The Government has also moved to draft a Bill to provide sanctions against proprietors of head shops engaged in the sale of drug-like products that may not be specifically proscribed under the Misuse of Drugs Act, but which have psychoactive effects. The Criminal Law (Psychoactive Substances) Bill 2010 will make the sale or supply of substances a criminal offence.
It is also proposed to give appropriate powers to the gardaí and to the courts to intervene quickly to prevent outlets from selling these products by way of prohibition orders.
Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern said "The safety of the community is being put at major risk by the operation of so-called head shops".
"The operators of these shops are exploiting for large profits the availability of potentially dangerous products by selling them for human use. Such activity clearly seeks to undermine the legal framework for the control of drugs in this country."
Labour Dublin Central TD Joe Costello welcomed the Government move but added the ban should have been introduced months ago.
"The suppliers of the psychoactive substances have had months of advance warning from the Government as to which substances were to be banned. All they have to do is withdraw the existing substances, alter the mix of ingredients, and supply the head shops with a new synthetic substance with a new name."
He added banning of products sold in the outlets was unlikely to have any long term effect on the head shop industry. Instead, Mr Costello said moves by gardaí in Store Street to visit 16 head shops in the north inner city were the most effective steps taken.