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Drugs and the Law / Misuse of Drugs Acts

The availability of drugs in Ireland is controlled by a number of laws. For example, there are laws restricting the supply of legal, prescription drugs through pharmacies only. The sale of alcohol and tobacco is also regulated, mainly to prevent young people drinking and smoking. The Misuse of Drugs Acts (MDA) are the main laws controlling the drugs we term 'illegal' drugs.

The MDA aims to prevent the non-medical use of drugs. This includes the misuse of medicinal drugs, as well as the use of drugs for which there is no medical use.

Drugs covered by the MDA are known as controlled drugs and are listed in five lists, known as schedules. For example, Schedule One lists drugs that are considered to have no medical use, and includes hallucinogenic drugs and so-called 'designer' drugs, such as ecstasy. Schedule Two drugs have medical uses, but are dangerous if misused - this list includes opiates, such as morphine.

The MDA defines a series of offences relating to controlled drugs. These offences include unlawful production, possession and supply of these drugs, growing opium or cannabis and forging prescriptions. The law makes a distinction between possession of a drug for your own personal use, and possession with intent to supply to others (dealing), for which the penalties are heavier. Gardai and Customs officers have special powers to stop, detain and search people and vehicles without a warrant if they suspect that someone is in possession of a controlled drug.

Another law is aimed at drug dealing in pubs and clubs. It gives the Gardai powers to prevent unlicensed events such as open-air "raves".

There are also international and EU regulations aimed at controlling the illegal drug trade. These regulations control the sale, export and use of certain chemicals which are important in the production of heroin from opium, and that are used to make ecstasy, LSD, amphetamines and 'designer' drugs. Drug trafficking and money laundering are covered by a number of laws. The profits of drug dealers are also a major target of the Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB).

There are a number of laws that deal with the problems created by drug misuse. For example, local housing authorities can evict drug dealers for 'anti-social' behaviour.

Laws also cover the following offences:

  • threatening or attacking someone with a syringe
  • poisoning someone by 'spiking' their drink
  • being intoxicated in a public place - this relates to alcohol as well as other drugs
  • driving while under the influence of drink or other drugs.

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