More than 100 substances including ecstasy and ketamine have effectively been legalised in Ireland – but not for long.
The country’s parliament sat late on Tuesday and passed emergency drug control laws after a ruling in the Court of Appeal found a section of the country’s current drug legislation was unconstitutional.
The emergency legislation was passed by the lower house of the parliament, but must be ratified by the Senate and then signed into law by the President Michael D. Higgins.
That is expected to be completed within 24 hours, but would only come into force from midnight on Thursday, meaning the drugs are effectively legal for a period of more than 36 hours between the court ruling and the emergency laws taking effect.
Drugs affected include ecstasy, ketamine, so-called “benzos” or benzodiazepines and legal highs.
A memorandum for the new legislation confirms: “All substances controlled by means of Government Orders made under section 2(2) cease to be controlled with immediate effect, and their possession ceases to be an offence.”
Many other drugs, including heroin, cocaine and cannabis are banned under separate laws and not affected by the ruling.
The ruling came during the prosecution of a man for possession of methylethcathinone, which was among a number of substances added to the controlled drugs list in 2010.
StanislavBederev, who denies having the substance for supply in 2012, brought a legal challenge arguing the way the government went about adding drugs to the banned list was unconstitutional.
His lawyers successfully argued the decision to ban a particular drug should have been considered by the Irish parliament before the relevant minister could confirm a ban.
The ruling also raises questions about criminal prosecutions stretching back almost 40 years under the previous law.