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Leo Varadkar backs softer drug rules as new laws pass

Health Minister Leo Varadkar has indicated his support for liberalising Ireland's drug laws in order to tackle the country's addiction problems.

Mr Varadkar made his comments at the conclusion of a debate in the Seanad, which has passed his emergency legislation to re-ban the possession of esctasy, magic mushrooms and other drugs.

During the debate, a small number of senators including Independent James Heffernan spoke of the need of changing the current approach to tackle the country's drug problem.

Mr Heffernan suggested that some liberalisation in the current laws could be the way to go.

Responding, Mr Varadkar strongly indicated that he supports a softening in the drugs laws.

He said: "A number of senators called for a more health focused, addiction focused approach rather than a criminal justice one to deal with the drugs crisis. My own instincts are in that direction too."

He added that any move would require "thought and consideration and public buy in" were it to be successful.

The Seanad passed the Misuse of Drugs Amendment Bill 2015 without opposition.

Having been passed by the Seanad, the bill was sent to President Michael D Higgins to be signed into law.

Mr Varadkar conceded yesterday that "dozens" of criminal cases could be affected by the loophole in the country's drug laws.

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Possession of ecstasy, magic mushrooms, so-called 'head shop' drugs and other new psychoactive drugs was legalised temporarily following a decision by the Court of Appeal on Tuesday.

As a result the State yesterday withdrew charges against a man accused of holding a small amount of ecstasy.

Phillip Farrell (35) of Cushlawn Park, Tallaght, Dublin still faces sentence for possession of €23,000 amount of heroin which he claimed he was holding to clear a €30,000 debt.

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