Drugs and the law
Drugs are controlled by different areas of law
- International laws: The United Nations Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs 1961 (as amended in 1972), Then UN Convention on Psychotropic Substances 1971 and the UN Convention against Trafficking Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances 1988.
- The Health Act (1947)
- The Poisons Act (1961)
- The Medical Preparations Regulations (1970)
- The Misuse of Drugs Act (1977, 1984)
- The Criminal Justice Act (1994)
- The Criminal Justice (Psychoactive Substances) Act 2010)
The Misuse of Drugs Act 1977 and its Orders and Regulations
The Misuse of Drugs Act 1977 and the Misuse of Drugs Act 1984 are the main Acts regulating controlled drugs in Ireland. These legislations control the cultivation, licensing, possession, administration, supply, record keeping, prescription writing and destruction of scheduled substances. The implementation of The Criminal Justice (Psychoactive Substances) Act 2010 means that any substances with psychoactive effects, such as new psychoactive substances are also controlled. Controlled Drugs are scheduled in Ireland under the Misuse of Drugs Act according to their level of control, Schedule 1 controlled drugs being subject to the strictest level of control.
You can view the different schedules where drugs are categorised under Irish law here.
The Misuse of Drugs Act makes a distinction between the possession of controlled drugs for personal use and the sale and supply of controlled drugs.
Possession of controlled drugs - cannabis or cannabis resin
Under the Misuse of Drugs Act anyone found in possession of cannabis or cannabis resin is considered guilty of an offence. However, depending on the circumstances, the situation may be managed under the Adult Cautioning Scheme.
Since the 14th of December 2020, cannabis possession commonly referenced as ‘simple possession’ may be treated with a caution in line with the Adult Caution Scheme. In these cases, it is the decision of the Gardaí to decide whether a caution, rather than a prosecution, would be the appropriate response to the commission of an offence. Consideration will be given to the type, quantity and value of the drug and whether in all the circumstances the offence disclosed amounts to simple possession. Currently the Adult Caution Scheme is only applied to the possession of cannabis and cannabis resin. No other controlled drugs are permitted under the Adult Cautioning Scheme.
Possession of any other controlled drugs
Under Irish law, it is considered an offence to be in possession of a controlled drug and this means that you could receive a fine or a prison sentence of up to 12 months.
The type of controlled drug and quantity you are found with will determine the court’s decision. If the court decides that the amount you have is more than for personal use, you’ll be charged with possession for sale or supply. This means you’re being charged with having drugs to sell or give to others. It doesn’t matter if you’ve actually sold the drug or not.
The Gardaí can legally search you or a vehicle without a warrant if they suspect you might have controlled drugs in your possession or have drug involvement. They can also arrest you if they’ve reasonable grounds to suspect you of a crime under the Misuse of Drugs Act
Get more information on drugs and the current law here.
The Health Diversion Scheme
Work is currently underway on the development of a Health Diversion Scheme as a new approach for cases of personal possession of drugs in Ireland. You can find out more here
Further information will be added to Drugs.ie as this programme develops.