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Blitz on head shops nets 4.5 tons of drugs

Gardai have seized more than 4.5 tons of "legal high" drugs from head shops across the country under new regulations.

The seizures, made through new powers introduced on May 11 under the Misuse of Drugs Act, were part of Operation Kingfisher under the direction of the Garda National Drugs Unit.

There are still 44 head shops in the country but these are being visited by gardai on an on-going basis, according to Justice Minister Dermot Ahern.

The haul taken from the shops included all cannabanoid products, controlled cathinone substances and any substances with benzylpiperazine or its derivatives.

No arrests have been made to date but "prosecutions will be pursued in cases where any controlled drugs are detected in the products sent for analysis", the Minister has promised.

In response to question from Deputy Aengus O Snodaigh, Mr Ahern said additional measures to outlaw the sale of psychotropic substances, passed by the Oireachtas this month "will further enhance our response in tackling this problem".

There were 102 head shops operating in Ireland before April 26, but the number has plummeted to 44.

Gardai have sent files to the Director of Public Prosecutions about 13 head shops, seeking directions on a charge or reckless endangerment.



Discovered

They have also submitted evidence that head shop assistants gave advice on consuming legal highs labelled not fit for human consumption.

A second part of the Garda campaign has involved calling in landlords renting out premises to head shops and urging them to take responsibility.

Meanwhile pharmaceutical scientists have discovered that mephedrone -- banned under the May regulations -- had such varied quality that users were at risk of overdosing without being aware of the danger.

The drug, known as M-Cat, Miaow-Miaow and Moonshine is still being sold online as plant fertiliser.

Results from the study at the University of Sunderland, just released, show that samples of the drug bought over the internet varied in form and effects.

Dr John Lough, who headed up the study, suggested that the drug had been developed in synthetic chemistry labs.

Differing crystal forms of the drugs meant that someone "could end up with much higher levels of drug circulating in their body than they were used to", he added.

The University is now working to develop techniques to quickly establish the latest "legal highs" being pushed by dealers so they can spread the information globally.

csheehy@herald.ie


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