Sunday 18 November 2018

Leo Varadkar indicates support for liberalising Ireland's drug laws

Daniel McConnell

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 ecstasy, 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 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.  Now having been passed by the Seanad, the bill will be 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. 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 yesterday morning.

The Government was forced to rush through emergency legislation in the Dáil last night after the court struck down a law banning so-called legal highs.

A Government regulation declaring illegal a psychoactive substance sold lawfully in 'Head Shops' until 2011 was found to be unconstitutional.

In what the Court of Appeal said was a "constitutional issue of far-reaching importance", the three-judge court unanimously said a regulation making the possession of methylethcathinone illegal was invalid.

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