Some of the most powerful recreational drugs, including ecstasy, ketamine and magic mushrooms, were accidentally made legal in Ireland on Tuesday – but only for one day – thanks to a loophole in the law.
The Irish government is now rushing to pass through emergency legislation to re-criminalise the drugs, but this will not be completed until Wednesday at the earliest.
The bizarre situation came about after the country’s Court of Appeal ruled on Tuesday morning that a longstanding piece of anti-drug legislation – the Misuse of Drugs Act 1977 – was unconstitutional.
According to Ireland’s Department of Health, this meant possession of drugs listed in the act such as ecstasy, benzodiazepines and newer psychoactive substances immediately ceased to be an offence.
“The outcome of this case does not affect existing laws regarding the supply, possession or sale of older drugs such as heroin, cocaine or cannabis,” the department said in a statement.
The case concerned the prosecution of a man for possession of a substance sold by one of Ireland’s so-called ‘head shops’, operators that sell substances often dubbed “legal” or “herbal” highs that the government sought to crack down on in 2010.
The stimulant, methylethcathinone, was added to the list of controlled substances by ministerial order in 2011, a move the court deemed to be unconstitutional as it had been done without any consultation with the Irish parliament.
As a result, all other drugs added to the list of controlled substances by similar government orders over the years also ceased to be illegal.
Irish Health Minister Leo Varadkar is set to introduce emergency legislation in a session at the Dáil, the lower house of the country’s parliament, on Tuesday evening.
However, once through the Dáil the bill will need to go before the parliament’s upper chamber, the Seanad, tomorrow, before it can become law.
“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,” Varadkar said in a statement.