Head shops Bill will restrict move to sell online, says Minister
Robust, innovative and urgent legislation to ban the sale of psychoactive substances will also restrict a move by head shops to sell their products online, Minster for Justice Dermot Ahern has told the Dáil.
Introducing the Criminal Justice (Psychoactive Substances) Bill, he said it would be an offence “to sell, import or export unregulated psychoactive substances for human consumption”. The Bill also gives powers to the Garda and courts to issue prohibition and closure orders for head shops that continue to sell psychoactive substances “despite notice to cease”.
The Bill is a response to the mushrooming of head shops selling so-called “legal highs” – chemical and organic substances mimicking effects of illegal drugs such as cocaine. Before rules were introduced this summer to make the sale of more than 200 products illegal, there were 102 head shops. This fell to 34 but rose again to 48, before four more closed.
Mr Ahern said it was a dangerous trade that operated without regard to the consequences for its consumers and for society.
All parties support the Bill, but Fine Gael justice spokesman Alan Shatter criticised the two-year delay in dealing with the issue, and said flaws in the Bill would delay the closure of head shops. He told the Minister the problem with this Bill was “that the road or route map you have to travel to bring about a closure is too long drawn out, and it gives too great a leeway to those operating these shops to continue to do so”.
Fine Gael’s newly appointed spokeswoman for older citizens, Catherine Byrne, welcomed the legislation, but said it only scratched the surface of the drug problem. She said the country was slowly losing the “war on drugs”. The many good projects in place were overshadowed by the size and strength of the illegal drug trade, she added.
Labour justice spokesman Pat Rabbitte said some young people were seduced by legal highs into a drugs-abuse lifestyle, and they would now seek to satisfy their newly acquired habit by other means. “In the eyes of many young people, the proliferation of these retail outlets on the high street seemed to confer a kind of official approval of the products on sale.”
Labour TD Joe Costello said it was only a matter of time before a wide range of new legal highs was available. He also said the “so-called godfather of the head shops, who operated in my constituency, has now moved to Bulgaria to operate his empire”.
Sinn Féin justice spokesman Aengus Ó Snodaigh condemned the Government’s “chronic delay” in acting on head shops, and claimed it had “allowed a demand for these dangerous drugs to be created”. But the fault also lay in “people’s own stupidity in getting involved in these drugs”. Some people were now addicted “who would otherwise never have engaged in substance abuse”.
Source: Marie O'Halloran, The Irish Times, 03/06/2010