Thursday, 28 April 2022
Department of Justice and Equality
254. To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality if she is satisfied that current legislation is sufficient to deal with the growing use of nitrous oxide as a psychotropic; if not, the work that is under way in her Department to change the situation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21541/22]
As the Deputy will be aware, the Department of Health leads on Government policy in the area of drugs, and this policy is guided by the national drugs and alcohol strategy "Reducing Harm, Supporting Recovery - a health led response to drug and alcohol use in Ireland 2017-2025". This strategy represents a whole-of-government response to drug and alcohol use in Ireland. Implementation is led by my colleague the Minister of State at the Department of Health, Frank Feighan, and encompasses actions for all stakeholders, including An Garda Síochána and my Department.
The Deputy may be aware that nitrous oxide has various legitimate uses; medical, non-medical and industrial and, because of its legitimate uses, it is not controlled under the Misuse of Drugs Acts or under the International Drug Conventions. Under Section 3 of the Criminal Justice (Psychoactive Substances) Act 2010 it is already an offence to sell, import or export a psychoactive substance for human consumption, including nitrous oxide.
The purpose of the Criminal Justice (Psychoactive Substances) Act 2010 includes the prevention of the misuse of dangerous or otherwise harmful psychoactive substances and the provision of offences relating to the sale, importation, exportation or advertisement of those substances. For example, the Act provides that a person who sells, or who imports or exports, a psychoactive substance knowing or being reckless as to whether that substance is being acquired or supplied for human consumption shall be guilty of an offence. This Act does not provide for an offence for personal possession.
The Deputy may wish to note that the HSE and An Garda Síochána are aware of the issues surrounding nitrous oxide. The HSE is committed to increasing awareness of the health risks associated with substance misuse, including nitrous oxide, among young people, parents and youth organisations. Similarly, Revenue’s Customs Officers are aware of the misuse of nitrous oxide and are closely monitoring importations of the product into the State.