‘Head shops’ selling ‘legal highs’ from their shelves all around the 26 Counties closed their doors or withdrew most of the products from their shelves following the announcement of new legislation to ban the sale to the public of a list of chemical compounds yesterday.
The Dublin government’s Minister for Health Mary Harney announced the ban of a list of specified drugs under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1977 through the introduction of a Government order.
Further legislation on the matter has been brought before the Dublin government and is expected to be published later this year.
Drugs banned from sale include synthetic cannabis [cannabinoids], benzylpiperazine, mephedrone, piperazine derivatives, flephedrone and MDPV.
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.
The Nirvana chain of head shops, which has six branches across the country, cleared its shelves of formerly legal highs, but remained open to sell pipes and related paraphernalia.
The sale of the compounds had concerned health officials over potential side effects and addictive qualities.
The use of the drugs also infuriated Ireland’s powerful alcohol lobby, particularly pub-owners in working-class areas who blamed the shops for a sharp drop-off in sales.
Sinn Fein and other republican organisations have also vehemently opposed the sale of the outlawed items.
Sean Foy, director of the Learning Curve Institute, an organisation that provides drugs awareness training and counselling, said that head shops had not gone away.
“Head shops may have closed temporarily, but owners will continue to look for new chemicals and substances that can be sold legally as drugs in Ireland,” he said.
Fianna Fail TD Chris Andrews said it was a great day for people all over the country who have campaigned to end the supply of these drugs.
Sinn Fein Spokesperson for Justice Aengus O Snodaigh TD warned the Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern that head shop legislation must be fast-tracked to avoid an increase in dangerous incidents during summer holidays.
O Snodaigh said Ahern had been “dragging his feet on this issue for months”.
“Unfortunately it has taken the government four years of long promised action to get us to this point,” he said.
He pointed to “life-threatening incidents” involving the substances, and warned that school children and teenagers would continue to be endangered during the summer months.