Monday 27 February 2017

Ahern to lead crackdown on headshops

Shops are to be prevented from selling legal highs under legislation to be introduced by the Department of Justice.

Minister Dermot Ahern said it would give police the power to prosecute outlets known as headshops from having the potentially dangerous substances on sale.

In the UK, a ban on mephedrone was introduced today after the stimulant was linked to a string of deaths of young people.

There have been a spate of petrol bomb and arson attacks on premises selling substances like mephedrone across Ireland, including one in Dundalk yesterday.

Mr Ahern said: "I am concerned about headshops. We are putting in place focused operations to deal with that. I am concerned about what can happen to communities."

He said as soon as the authorities banned a substance like mephedrone, something else came up. He was meeting the North`s new Justice Minister David Ford and the heads of the police services north and south at Stormont today.

Mr Ahern added: "We are looking to ban particular items. We are also going to look at the criminal justice area to see can we change the law in order to deal with that from a criminal justice point of view."

There has been much public hostility towards headshops, which sell so-called legal "highs".

The suspected arson in Dundalk is the fifth such incident. There have been similar arson attacks on other such businesses in Dublin, and pipe bomb attacks in Athlone and Letterkenny.

The cabinet in Dublin decided last month to outlaw a range of substances sold in headshops. The ban will come into effect in June as a three-month notice period is legally required to implement it.

Mephedrone and its related compounds are now class B substances in the UK after measures were rushed through Parliament in Westminster.

The Advisory Council for the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) had recommended a ban, saying the substance was "likely to be harmful" despite incomplete research.

But the leading medical journal The Lancet has questioned the ban, saying it had been rushed and politics had been allowed to "contaminate" science.

Mephedrone, also known as Meow, Bubbles and MCAT, is derived from cathinone, a compound found in a plant called Khat.

The laboratory-produced drug has a similar effect to amphetamines, Ecstasy or cocaine. But it also causes nausea, palpitations and vomiting.

The drug has been linked to a number of deaths but there has been no conclusive scientific proof yet that it has been responsible for any of them on its own.

Press Association

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