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Ireland Rushes To Ban Possession Of Several Hard Drugs

The Irish government hopes to vote on emergency legislation quickly to counter today's Irish Court of Appeal ruling, which on a technicality legalized a number of hard drugs in the country, including ecstasy and "magic mushrooms." The three-person court found that government officials had not gotten parliamentary approval when they added drugs to the list outlawed by the 1977 Misuse of Drugs Act.

In a statement, the Irish Department of Health says the ruling "does not affect existing laws regarding the supply, possession or sale of older drugs such as heroin, cocaine or cannabis." But, the statement continues, "It does affect the possession of certain newer psychoactive substances which have been added to the Misuse of Drugs Act 1977 by successive governments." The Department of Health says it believes the sale and supply of psychoactive substances is still illegal, even if their possession is not under the new ruling.

The Irish Times reports Minister for Health Leo Varadkar "will introduce the legislation in the Dáil later on Tuesday and the intention is that it will pass through all stages in the Dáil and Seanad within 24 hours." The Times is also reporting that an appeal to Ireland's Supreme Court over the ruling is underway as well.

The Irish Times elaborates on the details of the case which overruled the Misuse of Drugs Act:

"The case concerned a prosecution of a man for possession of methylethcathinone which was among a number of substances put on the controlled drugs list in 2010.

Stanislav Bederev, who is denying criminal charges of having the substance for supply in 2012, brought a High Court challenge seeking to stop his trial claiming the regulations were unconstitutional.

Lawyers for Lithuanian-born Mr Bederev argued it was not lawful to put this substance on the controlled drug list because there are no principles and policies guiding the introduction of such rules."

Varadkar says his government was ready for the ruling from the court. "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."

The Washington Post reports that "the earliest the legislation could take effect is 12 a.m. local time on Thursday, so in the interim the possession of a large number of previously outlawed drugs is technically legal." And the Irish Examiner says "dozens of people found guilty of drugs offences could now have their convictions overturned."

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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