The Law Regarding Drugs
Drugs in Ireland are controlled by a several different statutes of Irish Law:
- The 1947 Health Act.
- The 1961 Poisons Act.
- The Medical Preparations Regulations 1970.
- The Misuse of Drugs Act 1977 & 1984.
- E.U. /International Regulations.
- The Criminal Justice Act 1994.
Possession of Drugs
In the Irish Misuse of Drugs Act a distinction is made to see whether the individual intended "Possession for Personal Use" or "Intent to Supply"
Possession for Own Personal Use
The court must be satisfied that the individual in possession of a controlled substance was for his or her own "immediate personal use". In deliberating this quantity seized is very important; In law to be in possession there does not need to be a sufficient quantity for use but the amount must be "tangible and visible". This means that even the smallest amounts of drugs discovered once visible can still be prosecuted.
Intent to Supply
The court must be satisfied that the controlled substance was not intended for personal use and that it was his/her possession for the purpose of selling or otherwise supplying to another. It is important to note that money does not have to change hands in order for an individual to be guilty of the offence of supplying. Broadly speaking it is the quantity of drug found in the persons possession which determines which charge is applicable. Possession does not necessarily refer to direct physical control, one or more persons may be in possession of a drug which is in the hands of another.
Power to Search
Once they have reasonable ground for suspicion the Gardai have the power to search a person, vehicle, vessel or aircraft without a warrant under the Misuse of Drugs Act.
Powers of Arrest
Again the Gardai may arrest a person without warrant if they have reasonable grounds to suspect that they have committed a crime under the act.
- Ask why you have been stopped.
- At the end of the search ask for a record of the search.
- Ask to see their warrant card, if they are not in uniform.
- You should not be detained if under 18 without your Parents/ Guardians being notified.
- If detained you have the right to know why and have a legal advice.
Remember the law is there for your protection and the protection of society as a whole and it is the Gardai responsibility to ensure these laws are enforced. At no time should you feel victimized or bullied by the Gardai, If this is not the case you should report it to your local Representative of the Oireachtas so the matter can be investigated.
It would be our recommendation that you assist the Gardai with any enquiries they may have.
Class A, B and C drugs
The different kinds of illegal drugs are divided into three different categories, or classes. These classes (A, B and C) carry different levels of penalty for possession and dealing.
The Misuse of Drugs Act (new window) is the main piece of legislation covering drugs and their categorisation.
Penalties for possession and dealing
- Ecstasy, LSD, heroin, cocaine, crack, magic mushrooms, amphetamines (if prepared for injection).
Up to seven years in prison or an unlimited fine or both. Up to life in prison or an unlimited fine or both.
- Amphetamines, Cannabis, Methylphenidate (Ritalin), Pholcodine. Up to five years in prison or an unlimited fine or both.
Up to 14 years in prison or an unlimited fine or both.
- Tranquilisers, some painkillers, Gamma hydroxybutyrate (GHB), Ketamine.
Up to two years in prison or an unlimited fine or both. Up to 14 years in prison or an unlimited fine or both.
All of the drugs on the list above - whether Class A, B or C - are designated as controlled substances under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, and using them is illegal.
Class A drugs are considered to be the most likely to cause harm.
The Misuse of Drugs Act states that it is an offence to:
- possess a controlled substance unlawfully
- possess a controlled substance with intent to supply it
- supply or offer to supply a controlled drug (even if it is given away for free)
- allow a house, flat or office to be used by people taking drugs
The punishment is serious
Drug trafficking attracts serious punishment, including life imprisonment for Class A offences.
To enforce this law the police have special powers to stop, detain and search people under the 'reasonable suspicion' that they are in possession of a controlled drug.