GARDAÍ may prosecute head shop owners if it can be proved that their products, sold as legal highs, cause injury.
Chief Superintendent Michael Finn told the Cork City Joint Policing Committee yesterday that gardaí have sought legal advice on the issue.
He said certain pieces of legislation around reckless endangerment have been explored to establish if a prosecution could be brought in cases where it can be proven that injury of some degree has been caused to an individual as a result of the consumption of a head shop product.
"Just because something is not illegal, doesn’t mean it’s good for you. Parents need to be vigilant," he warned. He told the committee that drugs squad officers have raided several head shops in the city and removed illegal products, including an amount of cannabis from one outlet recently.
And he said a drop in the number of offences for the possession of drugs for personal use last year may be linked to the proliferation of head shops.
He assured committee members that drug squad officers are closely monitoring the situation and he welcomed the planned introduction in June of legislation banning certain products.
Labour TD Kathleen Lynch said it is essential that the Government deals with the issue quickly.
She backed Senator Jerry Buttimer’s call for planners to report on how the issue could be tackled from a planning perspective.
Fianna Fáil TD Noel O’Flynn said: "This is one of the most serious issues to confront us as a society. I hope the law will be fast enough to catch up and chase these drugs as soon as they emerge."
The Government moved earlier this week to ban a range of substances sold as legal highs from head shops.
The possession and sale of six items, including ketamine, synthetic cannabinoids or so-called SPICE products, and BZP derivatives, will be illegal from June under the Misuse of Drugs Act.
The Oireachtas Justice Committee is also holding investigations into head shops and will investigate if they can be banned.
By Eoin English
March 6, 2010