A RECREATIONAL drug will be outlawed for sale in Irish head shops, the Department of Health insisted last night.
Mephedrone, a legal high also known as M-Cat, MC, meow or simply as plant fertiliser, has been linked to up to 25 deaths in England and Scotland.
Mephedrone is one of a large number of products sold in so-called head shops in Ireland that are to be controlled under a list currently being drawn up by the Department of Health.
Others on the list will include synthetic cannabinoids (SPICE products), benzylpiperazine (BZP) derivatives, GBL and 1,4 BD.
However, the department said some of the substances sold in head shops -- which are to be controlled -- have legitimate uses in the pharmaceutical and chemicals industries.
Two of the BZP derivatives are used to manufacture authorised medicines and GBL and 1,4 BD are widely used in the manufacture of plastics and as industrial solvents.
"During the three-month EU notification period, consultations will take place with relevant government departments/ agencies and with industry to determine how the substances can be properly controlled without placing inappropriate restrictions on their legitimate use," a spokesperson said.
However, plans to ban mephedrone in the UK were thrown into chaos yesterday by the resignation of a Home Office adviser, critics said.
Dr Polly Taylor quit the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs yesterday, accusing ministers of failing to take scientific advice seriously.
Her departure raises major questions over whether a ban on mephedrone can be brought in before the general election.
Until she is replaced, the council is unable to offer formal advice to ministers, which they must receive before outlawing the drug.
Meanwhile, Army bomb disposal experts have carried out a controlled explosion on a pipe bomb outside a head shop following the latest in a series of attacks on stores selling controversial legal highs.
Gardai called the Army's explosive ordnance disposal team to the Yutopia store on Pearse Road, Letterkenny, Co Donegal, after the viable device was discovered outside the front door around 1am yesterday.
"It had all the components necessary to go off and explode. To make it safe, the bomb control officer had to carry out a controlled explosion," an Army spokesman said.
apartments in and near the building had to be evacuated of several dozen people when gardai raised the alarm in the early hours of yesterday.
The Army disposal team, which had to travel from Athlone, arrived at 5am and pronounced the area safe just over an hour later. Garda forensics experts carried out tests.
By Fergus Black
Tuesday March 30 2010
State insists ban on sale of 'legal high' in pipeline