Dáil passes emergency drug legislation in late-night sitting

Leo Varadkar responds to court decision lifting ban on ‘headshop’ and other drugs

A former Dublin ‘headshop’ in 2010. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien/The Irish Times

A former Dublin ‘headshop’ in 2010. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien/The Irish Times

 

The Government rushed emergency legislation through the Dáil last night banning the possession of certain drugs.

The Misuse of Drugs (Amendment) Bill 2015 was introduced by Minister for Health Leo Varadkar following the striking down by the Court of Appeal of the ban on the possession of some drugs.

These included ecstasy, benzodiazepines and new psychoactive substances, so-called “headshop drugs’’.

The judgment had no implications for about 125 substances, including cannabis, heroin and cocaine.

The Bill will be passed by the Seanad today and then go to President Higgins for signing. The Minister said he would submit an early signature motion to the President.

Mr Varadkar told the Dáil that since the enactment of the Misuse of Drugs Bill in 1977, several governments had exercised the power to control a wide range of dangerous substances. The court had declared the legislative provision that substances could be controlled by government order was unconstitutional.

Since 1977, the power had been used nine times to control a wide range of dangerous substances.

“This judgment will be carefully examined by my department with a view to considering its implications and what future amendments to legislation may be required,’’ he said.

Mr Varadkar said the court’s judgment meant that substances, which posed significant health risks for many who used them, were no longer controlled under the Act.

Accordingly, the purpose of the short but important Bill was to resubmit those substances to control under the Act, he added.

Mr Varadkar said he intended introducing new primary legislation this year to allow governments to prohibit substances by order again.

In the interim, it would be necessary to introduce primary legislation on each occasion it was deemed necessary to control new substances, he added.

An amendment moved by Independent Donegal South-West TD Thomas Pringle, to include the power to ban drugs by way of government order, was defeated.

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