Here is one for a future pub quiz. On what date was Ecstasy and other drugs made legal in Ireland, albeit temporarily? Well that would be today, March 10th 2015.
The strange legal limbo occurs after it emerged that a ruling in the Court of Appeal means the possession of certain drugs like ecstasy, magic mushrooms and former legal high substances is now legal, but not for long.
However the sale, supply, export or import of such substances still remains illegal, only possession laws are affected according to Health Minister Leo Vradkrar.
Lithuanian-born Stanislav Bederev is the man responsible for forcing this temporary change. It is he, who after denying criminal charges of having the substance methylethcathinone for supply in 2012, that brought a High Court challenge seeking to stop his trial claiming the new regulations were unconstitutional.
The Court of Appeal ruled that amendments made to the Misuse Of Drugs Act 1977, via ministerial orders and not the Oireachtas (Dáil and Seanad) are in violation of Article 15 of the Constitution.
Ministerial orders have been used nine times to outlaw the possession of drugs like ecstasy, ketamine, magic mushrooms, benzos and other drugs.
This temporary “legalisation” of certain substances will only occur today and tomorrow as emergency legislation, The Misuse of Drugs (Amendment) Bill 2015, is set to go through both the Dail and Seanad, before becoming law on Thursday.
The state may appeal the decision to the Supreme Court, but will still enable this new legislation to deal with the issue immediately.
It has been suggested that a small number of ongoing court cases could be affected by this ruling. Those affected relates to cases which were tried under the sections deemed unconstitutional, it will not impact on existing convictions under the 1977 Act.
However it should be noted that it may take a day or two for a broader picture of the legal consequences to emerge. So there maybe more legal fallout from this affair in the coming days.
According to a statement from government they were aware this situation might occur. The state had previously successfully defend its actions in a High Court hearing in March 2014, but one year on this ruling means these strange circumstances have arisen.
It is understood that other parties and politicians were aware of this situation since last week, however it came with a “highly confidential” warning, meaning it wasn’t revealed until today.
The Misuse of Drugs (Amendment) Bill 2015 is to begin the process of becoming law in the Dail tonight from 8pm and should be passed in the Dail tonight, before passing the Seanad tomorrow. Thus the Bill will be an Act come Thursday.
It will be interesting to see the impact, if any, this ruling will have on drug laws going forward. We may see more challenges in court, or this quirky few days might just fade into memory.
SSDP Ireland posted the following image which perhaps sums up the situation perfectly.