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Tuesday 24 April 2018

Crackdown on street sale of prescription drugs to get underway

Minister for Health Simon Harris
Minister for Health Simon Harris

Eilish O’Regan

The first steps towards cracking down on the street sale of prescription drugs such as tranquillisers is underway.

The law will cover so-called z-drugs - zopiclone and zaleplon.

Health Minister Simon Harris  brought the Misuse of Drugs (Amendment) Bill 2016 to the Seanad where it starts its legislative passage through the Oireachtas.

He said this is “the first step in the parliamentary process and the Minister hopes it can be completed by the summer recess”.

The aim of the Bill is to protect public health by bringing certain drugs which are open to misuse, and known to be traded on the illicit market, under the scope of the Misuse of Drugs legislation.

The Bill provides that certain prescription medicines currently being sold illegally on our streets which are not already controlled drugs, will come under the scope of the Misuse of Drugs Act.  

He said he is “presenting this Bill today as one part of the whole-of-government approach in dealing with the serious crime situation in the north inner city of Dublin.

“  Following the recent murders in Dublin’s north inner city, Government decided to expedite the drafting and publication of parts of the Misuse of Drugs Bill originally scheduled for the autumn.

“ These drugs are extremely dangerous, they affect people in horrific ways with serious health implications for people who use them and and tragically have been responsible for several deaths.”

Tánaiste and Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald added: "I fully support this Bill, the primary purpose of which is to aid the law enforcement functions of An Garda Siochána in tackling crime associated with the illegal sale of certain substances. 

“I am aware of the ongoing problems the Gardaí face particularly in parts of inner city Dublin to stop this activity. These are dangerous substances if used incorrectly and this Bill will assist the ongoing and targeted response gangland crime. Every effort must be made to prevent their unlawful sale.

“Controlling the substances in the Bill is part one of a two-step process.  Regulations are also required to allow legitimate users (eg patients with a prescription, health professionals) to possess the substances. Work is underway on drafting the regulations”

The Act will only be triggered when the necessary regulations to enforce it are ready but this should happen relatively quickly.

There will be a second Misuse of Drugs Bill in the Autumn which will provide for the establishment of supervised injecting facilities for chronic drug users.

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