McDaid: Head shops ban will only benefit drug dealers

BANNING synthetic legal drugs, on sale in alternative lifestyle shops, is a mistake and will simply create another layer to the illegal drugs trade, Fianna Fáil TD Jim McDaid has claimed.

The controversial Donegal TD yesterday spoke out on the issue, saying he did not believe they should be shut down or their substances banned as it would simply drive the trade into the hands of drugs dealers.

Head shops have been the subject of much debate recently as they sell substances labelled as plant food or bath salts, but which have the same effects as cocaine and ecstasy.

Last year, one of the drugs on sale, BZP, was banned, as it has been in other European countries.

However speaking on Joe Duffy’s Liveline, Mr McDaid said he had been completely opposed to the ban but never spoke out.

He said it had now become a “street drug”, and had become a gateway drug for young people into harder drugs.

Mr McDaid, who has hit the headlines previously for driving drunk the wrong way down a dual carriageway, said the reason new substances made to replace BZP were now being legislated for was “purely populist”.

Mr McDaid said he had sent a memo to the minister with responsibility for drugs, John Curran, expressing his views.

New Zealand was the first country where party pill BZP flourished, and was eventually banned. It is, however, only classified as a Class D drug, recognising it as a “low-risk substance”.

Speaking in the Seanad earlier this week Minister for Health, Mary Harney, said she was moving to ban new substances which had become popular since the banning of BZP – including mephedrone which has been the subject of debate in Britain in recent months.

The minister said she had never been in a head shop, but she understood they varied from big emporiums that sell various bizarre products to mainstream herbal shops where, among other things, they sell these highly dangerous products.

“They are targeted at vulnerable and young people especially,” she said.

However, Ms Harney did admit staying one step ahead of those making the legal drugs was going to prove almost impossible.

“This is where the legislation is difficult. We must ensure that we define by chemical compound what it is we are banning because many of the substances have legitimacy and are used in the legitimate pharmaceutical industry or, indeed, in the plastics industry. For example, there are products known as trazodone and nefazodone that are legally used. In the UK, for example, they did not ban what is commonly known here as “snow”, which, I think, is known as mephedrone, and we hope to ban that.

“The reason for the difficulty is that many of these substances have legitimate uses,” she said.


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