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Ó Snodaigh proposes alternative solution to Government's inadequate proposals for head shops

3 March, 2010 - by Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD

Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD welcomed the belated government move to ban a number of substances currently on sale in headshops but said the move is still inadequate. Deputy Ó Snodaigh presented today a comprehensive set of proposals which he claims are a real solution to the problem of head shops and said that if adopted, his proposal would effectively bring about conditions in which head shops as we know them could no longer exist.

He said:

“Communities across the Country and parents in particular are very concerned by the rate at which head shops are opening and the absolute lack of regulation governing the substances which they sell. A number of deaths and many more hospitalizations have been associated with the recent proliferation of legal highs.

“A number of proposals have been put forward by other parties. But those proposals are inadequate and by their own admission interim measures only. I am proposing comprehensive legislation to address the problems surrounding non-medicinal psychoactive substances or ‘legal highs’ once and for all. There will be a debate on the issue of Head Shops at my party’s Ard Fheis this weekend where I will seek approval for my proposal.

“I am proposing a stringent substance control model as a consequence of which head shops as we know them, could no longer exist.

“My proposal involves the establishment of an independent authority who would be tasked with regulating the import, production and sale of all psychoactive substances other than those that are currently covered by existing legislation. The authority would work with the existing drugs bodies and Dept. of Health to introduce and enforce a licensing system under which substances can be quickly identified and then restricted or prohibited as appropriate.” ENDS

Note to editor: See below Emergency Motion which will be debated at this weekend's Sinn Féin Ard Fheis

Emergency Ard Fheis Motion

This Ard Fheis recognises the increasing concerns of communities in relation to head shops and the potentially harmful substances that are freely sold by these outlets. Against a backdrop of head shops opening at a rate of at least one every 3 months across the island of Ireland, we condemn the failure of the two governments to take the urgent action which is required. In addition we note the inadequacy of the proposals put forward by the other opposition parties to date.

We recognise the complexity of the problem faced and consider existing legislation to be ineffective and outdated as it cannot keep pace with the variety and speed at which new substances and products enter this largely unregulated market. We commend the work undertaken by Sinn Féin representatives on this issue to date in particular their engagement with relevant stake holders and experts with a view to developing an effective long term solution based on international evidence of best practice.

Any proposed legislation should be based on the principle of harm reduction through a holistic and objective substance identification and control model, based on educated observations and appraisal of medical, biological and social factors. It should establish an independent authority to regulate the import, production, distribution, sale and consumption of all non-medicinal psychoactive substances other than those currently classified as illegal. Those substances covered under existing legislation should continue to be so. Until the new authority is established all substances that are shown, on the basis of clear scientific evidence, to be comparably harmful should be added to the remit of existing legislation.

The make-up of this independent authority should be such that it is comprised of experts in the fields of health and science, drug enforcement, drug counselling, and the impact of drugs in the community. The functions of the independent authority should be established under statute. Working with the Department of Health, these should include:

· Identification of relevant substances and products.
· Information gathering regarding the impact of substances and products in terms of potential harm to health, wellbeing, and society.
· Setting up a stringent regulatory system establishing a range of controls on the production, import, distribution, sale, packaging, marketing and consumption of these.
· Recommending the restriction or prohibition of substances and products where warranted.
· To license producers, distributors and proprietors who come within the remit of the authority and maintain a register of same.
· To impose sanctions on those who produce, sell, import or distribute substances and products in breach of licensing conditions including fines and/or the suspension or withdrawal of licenses. It shall be an offence to sell any of the relevant substances without a valid license.
· The new authority should have powers to initiate enforcement measures including search of licensees and should cooperate with local authorities to monitor non-licensees under current legislation.
· It should co-operate with other bodies nationally and internationally with a view to enhancing the control of potentially harmful substances and may make recommendations to government for the addition of substances to the Misuse of Drugs Acts as appropriate.

This regulatory regime should be subject to initial and ongoing impact assessment.

This authority should be complementary to the Drugs Misuse Research Division of the Health Research Board, the National Drugs Strategy and all its committees and drugs task forces and the Drug and Alcohol Information and Research Unit within the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety, and not a replacement for these bodies. It is essential that these organisations are adequately funded and resourced to ensure the independent authority can function successfully by drawing on their expertise.

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