Press Release

Government introduces emergency legislation following Court of Appeal judgment

The Government is introducing emergency legislation following a decision today by the Court of Appeal regarding a challenge to the Misuse of Drugs Act 1977.

The case dealt with the powers of the Government to control substances which are harmful to human health under Section 2 (2) of the Act.

There is always a degree of uncertainty about the outcome of court cases. The outcome of this case does not affect existing laws regarding the supply, possession or sale of older drugs such as heroin, cocaine or cannabis. It does affect the possession of certain newer psychoactive substances which have been added to the Misuse of Drugs Act 1977 by successive governments. However, we are advised that sale and supply of psychoactive substances remains an offence under existing legislation.

The State successfully defended the Misuse of Drugs Act 1977 in the original High Court hearing in March 2014. The matter was appealed to the Court of Appeal and the Government made preparations for a possible negative outcome.

This included the preparation of emergency legislation to be drafted in the event of a negative outcome for the State. It is now important from both a public health and criminal justice perspective that the legislation be enacted as soon as possible.

Minister for Health Leo Varadkar will introduce this legislation in the Dáil later this evening. The intention is to pass through all stages in the Dáil and Seanad within 24 hours.

“We had no way of knowing what the Court would decide today, but we prepared for this possibility. Legislation was prepared and approved in advance by Cabinet. The emergency legislation I am introducing today will re-instate the status quo ante and re-control all drugs that were controlled prior to this judgment. I want to thank the Opposition in advance for its co-operation,” Minister Varadkar said.