Friday 24 November 2017

Carey warns of battle to ban head shops

Michael McHale

THE Government faces serious problems in bringing in new "watertight" laws to combat head shops.

Community Minister Pat Carey made the admission yesterday even as he outlined his commitment to banning the controversial stores.

Referring to planned legislation to get rid of the shops, Mr Carey -- the minister with responsibility for drugs -- told the Irish Independent: "We need to get something that is watertight. There's no point in bringing in a piece of legislation which doesn't stand up to legal challenge and we need to be absolutely certain that that piece of legislation will be robust and will be capable of resisting any challenge."

Short-term measures to combat the problems concerning so-called 'legal highs' include a garda working group to slow down the expansion of head shops, and Health Minister Mary Harney applying to the EU to get several substances banned here in July.

An inter-departmental group is now working on the new laws, while the minister added that one of the main obstacles to such legislation was the chance that newly banned substances could be changed slightly to be relegalised, an argument made by a British government drugs advisor in the debate over the controversial drug mephadrone.

At least five deaths in the UK have been linked to the white powder substance, which is due to be banned there in the summer.

"Many of these products started off as veterinary products, and some of them have uses in mainstream medicine and, in the case of another one, an ingredient is used in the manufacture of plastics, for example," Mr Carey said.

"So an ingenious scientist, or even a not-so-ingenious scientist, all they have to do is alter one particular ingredient in the product and then we're back to square one, having to ban that again -- that was the point the drugs advisor in the UK was making.

"What we would do here is to have a belt-and-braces approach where we will combat all aspects of the issue, including the operation of head shops as a particular type of retail equipment."

Irish Independent

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