The Minister for Justice and Law Reform, Mr Dermot Ahern T.D., has today announced that the Criminal Justice (Psychoactive Substances) Act 2010 has come into effect.

The Act makes it an offence, punishable by up to five years imprisonment, to sell or supply for human consumption substances which are not specifically proscribed under the Misuse of Drugs Acts, but which have psychoactive effects.

The Act gives powers to An Garda Síochána and the courts to intervene quickly to prevent outlets from selling these products by way of prohibition orders. Ultimately, failure to comply with such orders can lead to the closure of the outlets in question. The Act also provides full search and seizure powers for the Gardaí and Revenue’s Customs Service.

Speaking on its commencement, Minister Ahern said: "This Act is indicative of my determination that those who engage in the sale of unregulated psychoactive substances for human consumption will not be allowed to escape the rigors of the law.

The sale of such substances, especially to the younger members of our society, is a dangerous trade which operates without regard to the consequences for the health and safety of its customers or of society generally."

This Act is part of the Government’s multi-pronged approach to targeting the activities of head shops. On foot of the Government order of 11 May, the Minister for Health and Children made the necessary statutory instruments to make the sale of substances commonly sold in head shops subject to criminal sanctions under the Misuse of Drugs Acts.

However, experience has shown that new psychoactive substances can quickly emerge.  Accordingly, in this Act the Minister is providing a criminal justice "catch all" approach to prohibit the sale generally of unregulated psychoactive substances for human consumption. The Act will operate in conjunction with the more specific controls under the Misuse of Drugs Acts.

Minister Ahern concluded: "With the coming into operation of this Act, the Gardaí will be in a position to watch closely the activities of head shops and to use the powers of this Act to deal with any continued sale of unregulated psychoactive substances for human consumption. The powers include the use of prohibition orders leading ultimately to closure orders and the taking of criminal prosecutions in relation to a variety of offences under the Act."

The Criminal Justice (Psychoactive Substances) Act 2010 is available on

23 August 2010

Note for Editors:

The Criminal Justice (Psychoactive Substances) Act 2010 is intended to operate in conjunction with a number of other avenues which are being pursued by Government, including the regulations introduced by the Minister for Health and Children on 11 May under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1977 which prohibit the possession and supply of a number of substances including mephedrone, synthetic cannabinoids and BZP derivatives. 

The activities of head shops are being closely monitored on an ongoing basis by An Garda Síochána and Revenue’s Customs Service, with a view to ensuring that no illegal substances are being sold. As part of the multi-pronged approach, relevant Government agencies are reviewing existing legislative provisions to establish if head shops are liable for prosecution under a range of legislation.

The National Advisory Committee on Drugs has been asked to carry out some targeted research in this area.

The HSE recently unveiled a new national campaign on the dangers of legal and illegal drugs, entitled "Legal or illegal highs - they’re anything but safe". The campaign is seeking to raise awareness of the dangers and significant negative mental and physical health effects that can be caused by these psychoactive substances.

The campaign features a number of important messages which illustrate the ill-effects that can be caused by these substances. These messages will feature on radio ads, in cinemas, washrooms in bars and clubs and at festivals over the summer.

The website has been updated to include new information in relation to the campaign and legal and illegal highs including information resources for young people and parents/guardians. The HSE Drugs Helpline on 1800 459 459 is also available to support the campaign.