Head shop owners face prosecution
Gardai have warned head shop owners and staff that they face prosecution from today if they are found selling mind-altering drugs.
Drug officers visited all 39 head stores over the weekend and told staff "in no uncertain terms" that any breaches of the Psychoactive Substances Act 2010 will be enforced.
Officers have personally met with wholesale suppliers and, according to senior sources, "laid it on the line" the risks they face by continuing to trade in the products.
Penalties under the act include up to five years in jail for selling psychoactive drugs as well as prohibition and closure orders.
Senior Garda sources said they felt most stores will fold, but added it was too early to say for sure.
They said some may yet challenge the law in the courts, as previously predicted by some government ministers.
The act imposes an effective blanket ban on all psychoactive substances, except those legally available. The act came into effect at midnight.
Detectives attached to local drugs units across the country, coordinated by the Garda National Drugs Unit (GNDU), have gone into 39 head stores that are still selling so-called "legal highs." A small number of other shops sell drug paraphernalia, such as bongs and pipes.
"All head shops have been visited and told the new act is coming into effect today and will be enforced from then," said a Garda source.
He said they have also met with the wholesale suppliers in the country. "We have laid it on the line with them, they are responsible if they breach the act."
Sources said that most head stores are "fairly empty" of legal highs.
Local drug units will engage in covert and overt policing to detect the sale of any substance suspected of being "psychoactive".
While some gardaí privately admit there may be definition problems over what is and is not a psychoactive substance, they feel head shops owners may be too fearful to take a risk in trading any product that could be deemed to be psychoactive.
Gardaí are working closely with Customs to prevent the import of head shops drugs and the development of an illegal market.
Last month, the GNDU and Customs seized 1.5kg of mephedrone, which was banned along with other drugs on May 11. The substantial haul, the first since it was banned, had a street value of €52,500.
Gardaí are still investigating the grenade attack on the home of Jim Bellamy, the wealthy owner of the Nirvana head shop chain, in Killiney, south Dublin, a fortnight ago.
Garda sources said the attack was "sinister" and "outrageous", but said they were still keeping an open mind on who carried it out, despite intense speculation dissident republicans may have been behind it.
Source: Cormac O’Keeffe, The Irish Examiner, 23/08/2010