Dáil Éireann - Volume 278 - 20 February, 1975

Supplementary Estimate, 1975. - Misuse of Drugs Bill, 1973: Second Stage.

Minister for Health (Mr. Corish): I move: “That the Bill be now read a Second Time.”

In proposing this Second Reading, I [918] believe that there is broad agreement in the House about the general objectives which the Bill is designed to meet. No one, I think, will dispute the need to provide effective, up-todate legislation to deal with the abuse of drugs in our society.

The previous Government introduced a Bill in 1972 which contained many of the provisions included in the present Bill. Deputy O'Malley reintroduced the same Bill towards the end of last year. I have been pleased to accept those provisions of the earlier Bills which I believe to be desirable, but having considered the matter, I felt it necessary to make some changes and some fundamental additions to the earlier versions.

Before I speak about the provisions of the Bill, I would like to make it clear to the House that I have not got a closed mind on the sections which I am putting forward today. This is a complex Bill, which attempts to deal in a balanced way with a very complex problem. A tough approach on the question of criminality and unethical behaviour has been adopted, while, at the same time, I have attempted to meet the treatment and rehabilitation needs of drug abusers in a humane and enlightened manner. I believe that this is the right approach. Those who traffic in drugs for a profit must be dealt with severely, while those who have a drug problem must be assisted and supported by society in their attempts to rehabilitate themselves.

I have, therefore, attempted to achieve the right balance between sanctions and care. Because of the difficulties involved in arriving at an appropriate balance, I do not presume that the Bill cannot be improved in debate in this House. I will consider carefully any suggestions which Deputies may wish to make to improve the Bill and will meet those which are desirable and practical.

The Bill contains a number of broad objectives. I should like to indicate these in turn, while reserving more detailed comment for Committee Stage.

The first general area of concern in [919] the Bill is the specification of offences involving or assisting illicit traffic in drugs. In this connection, the Bill makes a clear distinction for the first time, between unlawful possession of controlled drugs for one's own use and unlawful possession for the purposes of illegal supply or pushing. For instance, section 3 makes it an offence to be in possession of a controlled drug unless such possession is rendered lawful by virtue of ministerial regulations. Section 15, on the other hand, makes it a specific offence to be in possession of a controlled drug for the purpose of unlawfully supplying the drug to another person. Other innovations under this general heading are the provisions relating to forged prescriptions and those prohibiting unlicensed cultivation of drug-producing plants.

Before leaving the question of trafficking offences, I should like to comment briefly on section 15. The previous Bills of the same title contained, in section 9, specific provision to make possession for the purpose of illegal supply an offence. This section of these Bills was criticised, however, since it was felt that it placed too heavy a burden on a defendant in the sense that, unless he could prove his innocence, there was an absolute presumption of guilt. I accept this criticism and, in order to meet the case made, I have inserted a provision in subsection (2) of section 15. This requires that, where a person is charged under the section, the court must be satisfied that, having regard to the quality of the controlled drug which the person possessed or other relevant circumstances, it is reasonable to assume that the drug was not for his own personal use. This approach, I believe, meets the criticisms made in this regard of the previous Bills.

The second broad objective is to control the supply and distribution of scheduled drugs having regard to the needs of medical practice and scientific research. Controls do exist at present, of course, but the Bill enables these to be streamlined and extended. For instance, as well as providing for the licensing of importation, exportation, [920] production, and supply of scheduled drugs, the Bill will enable a more flexible system of control to be applied as compared with the present somewhat rigid structure.

In addition, sections 7 to 12 of the Bill contain provisions to deal with irresponsible prescribing of schedule drugs. These provisions are ancillary to the other control provisions and follow recommendations made in the report of the Working Party on Drug Abuse. While I have received no complaints of irresponsible prescribing since I took office, I understand that a small number of such cases did arise some years ago and, consequently, it is desirable to build safeguards for the future. As there is no adequate machinery for dealing with such cases under existing legislation, it is necessary to provide it in this Bill. I am in a position to inform the House that sections 7 to 12 have been worked out in consultation with the various professions involved and are agreed by them.

Thirdly, the Bill contains powers of enforcement. These are provided for in the main in sections 23 to 26. The powers of enforcement given to the Garda under the Bill have been strengthened as compared with the present position. The Garda had represented that under existing legislation, procedures for obtaining and executing search warrants were too cumbersome and inflexible to deal with the on-going situations.

Under section 26, such warrants may be obtained and executed by any member of the Garda Síochána, whereas only very senior officers can do so under present legislation. Additional powers are given under section 23 which enables persons or vehicles to be searched without a warrant and under section 25 which empowers a garda to arrest a person, without warrant, where he is of opinion that the person has committed an offence under the Bill.

Finally, there are provisions for penalties and the concomitant provision for treatment and rehabilitation. These are dealt with in sections 27 and 28 and, indeed, these two sections must be seen as providing a range of disposition options available [921] to the court on conviction. It is important, therefore, to look at these sections together.

Section 27 is a necessarily long and tedious section and I would recommend Deputies to refer to the tabular summary contained in the explanatory memorandum. The reason for this elaborate specification of penalties is that, for the first time, a distinction is made between offences, depending on the type of drug involved. This distinction is reflected in the division of the Schedule into three parts.

I should like to emphasise that the categorisation provided for in the Schedule is concerned not with the potential physical danger to the user of the drugs in question, but rather to indicate a distinction for the purposes of the penal clauses of the Bill. In other words, the categorisation contained in the Schedule is not intended as a pharmacological classification, but as a classification for distinguishing the magnitude of offences. In this sense, the Schedule reflects social values, at least as much as it reflects pharmacological effects.

I make this point because there has been some criticism of the Schedule on the grounds that the classification contained in it does not reflect, in all cases, the likely physical effects of the drugs in question. It has been said, for example, that because cannabis appears to be relatively harmless in itself, it should be in a lower category than barbiturates, which can create dependence among other effects. While this may be true in pharmacological terms, it is not necessarily true in terms of the social effects of these drugs or in terms of the way in which society sees their effects. The Schedule to the Bill is designed to reflect the latter concepts, more than the physical effect of any particular drug.

This is possibly a matter for more detailed discussion on Committee Stage. Again, I am not totally committed to the Schedule in its present form, although I would need very sound arguments for altering it. In addition, I would point out that there is ample machinery in section [922] 2 of the Bill for changing the classification of any particular drug in the future.

Section 28, which is an entirely new section, provides where a person is convicted under sections 3, 15, 16 or 18, that a report on the general medical and social background of the convicted person must be obtained, before disposition is decided. The requirement of a mandatory report of this kind reflects the fact that illegal drug possession or supply, while an offence, may also indicate a serious personal or social problem for the offender concerned. In short, drug possession cannot be seen in purely criminal terms in a humane society.

On receipt of the written report, the court may then decide on the appropriate method of disposition under sections 27 or 28. Section 27, which provides for fines or imprisonment or both, is designed in the main to provide either for the purely criminal offender, who does not himself have a notable drug problem, for example the pusher, or for an offender whose offences warrant a fine only, without further treatment or care being needed.

Section 28 provides a range of options to the court in the case of offenders where the written report indicates a drug problem requiring care, supervision and treatment. The options range from a general supervision order through to detention in a custodial treatment unit. This section also provides for the revocation of any order made.

The inclusion of section 28, I believe, creates a proper balance in the Bill as a whole. On the one hand the Bill provides for appropriate measures of control, enforcement and penalty. On the other, it recognises that drug abuse can be an appalling human problem for the individual concerned. While society must be resolute in dealing with the misuse of drugs, we must be humane in our approach to abusers. For these, the emphasis must be on care, treatment and rehabilitation.

To give effect to these general objectives, it is proposed to repeal the Dangerous Drugs Act, 1934, section [923] 78 of the Health Act, 1970, and to make some technical amendments to the Pharmacy and Poisons Acts.

I would like to make a number of final comments. As I have said, the penal and restrictive clauses in the Bill are stringent and unequivocal. For this reason, it is important that there should be provision to protect the innocent by affording certain defences to persons wrongly accused, or otherwise caught unawares, while doing something which they thought to be perfectly legitimate. These defences are provided for in section 29 of the Bill. This section affords a certain degree of protection to a person charged with unlawful possession or supply who can show, either that he was not aware of the fact or, alternatively, that he was acting deliberately for the purpose of assisting the authorities in preventing another person from committing an offence.

There are two other provisions in section 29 on which I would like to make a special comment. The first of these provides a defence for a person charged under section 19 with knowingly permitting certain activities to take place on his premises, if he can show that he took all reasonable steps to prevent the occurrence or continuance of these activities. The second provision enables a defendant, who is charged under section 15 with the possession of a controlled drug for the purposes of unlawful sale or supply, to rebut the presumption of guilt provided for in that section by showing that at the time of the alleged offence he was a person lawfully entitled to be in possession of the particular drug by virtue of regulations made under section 4. An obvious example of the necessity for such a protective clause would be doctors, pharmacists, or other qualified persons who have drugs in their possession for professional purposes.

It would appear that there has been some misunderstanding regarding the position in this respect and I thought it well to clarify the matter which, no doubt, will be discussed in greater detail at later stages of the Bill.

Apart from its implications from [924] the point of view of our own domestic law, the Bill is designed to enable this country formally to ratify the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, 1961, and, if necessary, the Convention on Psychotropic Substances, 1971. These conventions were adopted by the United Nations Organisation and they codify and supplement previous international conventions for the harmonisation of national laws for the prevention of illicit traffic in drugs liable to abuse. It has not been possible for this country to adhere to these conventions up to now, because our controls were technically unsuited to the control structure provided for in the conventions.

The amendment of the Poisons and Pharmacy Acts are provided for in sections 32 and 33 of the Bill. These amendments were found to be necessary in connection with the preparation of regulations under section 14 of the Poisons Act for controlling the sale of poisons. Work on the regulations is nearing completion and I am anxious that they should be made as soon as possible.

Experience in other countries has shown that, whilst laws of this kind do provide an effective deterrent, even the most stringent of such laws are not the answer to a drug problem and that further measures are needed in the socio-cultural, socio-economic and educational fields, coupled with up-to-date research and analysis of the factors which give rise to the problem in the first instance. However, this Bill is, fundamentally, an attempt to control the distribution of drugs of abuse at all stages, from production to consumption and, as the working party on drug abuse pointed out in its report, there is a direct correlation between the availability of drugs and the prevalence of abuse. Consequently, it is essential to have up-to-date comprehensive controls to ensure that the use of these drugs is confined to legitimate medical and scientific purposes and that they are not allowed to get into the wrong hands.

The drug scene in Ireland, so far as it is possible for my advisers to evaluate—and we are frankly somewhat [925] handicapped in that no comprehensive survey has as yet been published—would seem to show that, in a quantitative sense, the problem, while growing, is a small one by international standards. The numbers charged with drug offences in 1972 were 201, 1973, 270 and the provisional figure for 1974 is 294.

Of these 294, 182 related to the drug cannabis the comparable figure for 1972 being 124. It is probable that much of the growth in this figure is attributable to once-only experimentation with cannabis. Nevertheless we must be prepared to deal with a possible growth in the problem and we must keep a watchful eye to see that there is not a significant addition to the hard core of around 100 or so opiate or polyabusers who have been with us for a number of years and the vast majority of whom rely for treatment on the facilities provided in the drug advisory and treatment centre at Jervis Street Hospital.

I am hopeful that the provisions of the Bill, together with the other measures which have been taken to combat drug abuse will enable the authorities concerned in this country to contain the problem and to ensure that it does not reach proportions experienced in some other countries. In addition I believe that section 28 will give additional authority to our social agencies in dealing, in a humane way, with the treatment needs of addicts and abusers.

Mr. Haughey: We, of course, welcome this Bill and we do so because it is crystal clear to anyone who looks at our situation that legislation in this area is badly needed and, indeed, is long overdue. In fact, while I commended the Minister earlier today in another area, I must honestly criticise him for the inordinate delay in bringing this measure forward.

It seems to me that it required the putting down of a Private Members' Motion by my colleague, Deputy O'Malley, to push the apparently complacent Minister into action in this area. That tardiness on his part [926] does not portray any image of a dynamic Minister for Health fired with a reforming zeal and setting about the entire restructuring, updating and reforming of our health services.

However, I shall not dwell on that this morning nor, indeed, will I go into any criticism of the Minister on the general unhappy and unfortunate situation into which our health services have been allowed to decline. We now have this Bill before us at last and we must give it our full attention and give the Minister every assistance we can here in this House with our combined experience to make it as effective and suitable a piece of legislation as we can. I assure the Minister we will do that. As he has indicated himself, a great deal of the Bill can be more fully and adequately dealt with on the Committee Stage and indeed it is the sort of Bill that will require a very long, and exhaustive and detailed Committee Stage. I hope that on this side of the House, we will help the Minister to examine the Bill in a constructive way and see if we can make it a better measure.

I welcome the Minister's statement in his opening remarks to the effect that he would like to make it clear to the House that he had not a closed mind on the sections which he was putting forward. That is very welcome and very important because some of the sections, at first sight, seem to us to require amendment in a fairly radical way.

Drugs, of course, in their use and abuse are as old as mankind itself but the problem of dealing with them has taken on a new, and compelling urgency in our modern society. There exists today in our community a situation which we, as a legislature, must first, become totally familiar with. We must understand it; we must become familiar with it and we must try to provide for it as wisely and as maturely as we can.

The first thing is to acknowledge the existence of the situation and perhaps more important than that, to try to assess its extent. We must also acknowledge that it is a growing problem. [927] The Minister, towards the end of his statement, indicated that:

The drug scene in Ireland, so far as it is possible for my advisers to evaluate it—and we are frankly somewhat handicapped in that no comprehensive survey has yet been published—would seem to show that, in a quantitative sense, the problem, while growing, is a small one by international standards.

I suppose we could all accept that. There is however a great danger that, we in this House, coming, mainly as we do, from the older generation, might be out of touch with the young people of today. This is something which is terribly important to us in our consideration on this matter.

Those of us who are parents have a solemn obligation and duty to talk to our children and their friends about this and to try to find out from them what is the reality. Are we, perhaps, as legislators, living in something of a fool's paradise? Is this problem much more widespread, much more fundamental and much more deep-rooted than we suspect? The Minister should not accept a situation where his advisers are under any doubt or are under any disadvantage in evaluating this situation. In this House we can help them in that regard by pooling our experience and knowledge in our society and our community and indicating what the real situation is. I am told by my children and their friends that it is a common occurrence for young people in this city to be confronted if they go down town by pushers and by people who approach them and indicate that they can make these drugs of different sorts available to them.

I would be very interested to know what the experience of other Deputies is in this regard. I think we could all agree that whatever the level of the existence of this problem is at present it is certainly a growing problem. It is timely that we should be legislating for it. I hope that we will legislate wisely and maturely and in a far-seeing way because it is the sort of situation that puts this legislature on its mettle. It is a challenge to us to come up with the right answers.

[928] I am glad to see that the Minister, on a couple of occasions, used the word “humane”. I think that should be fundamental to our approach. This is a situation which calls for enlightenment, understanding, maturity, judgment and wisdom. Except in one area, it is not a situation that can be dealt with by repression and harshness. The Minister indicated that the provisions of the Bill are a mixture of toughness and humanity. I would like to see much more emphasis on the humanity and the humanitarian approach and the toughness, harshness and the repression confined to the areas where they are absolutely necessary.

We must recognise that this legislation is nothing more than a preliminary step. It is a very important preliminary step. It is something which is needed but we must recognise that it is nothing more than the scaffolding of a building. Very soon we must get on with the construction of the whole edifice itself. I would like to see as a follow-up to this legislation, much more comprehensive legislation—legislation which will serve as a basis for a whole new programme of prevention and treatment. This is a fire brigade operation. There is a very critical situation in our community at this moment, a situation which has very considerable implications for the future. We must consider this Bill against that background. I hope we will regard it as simply a stepping stone.

The first thing to be considered about these measures is their credibility and acceptability. To a large extent, these provisions will be aimed at the younger section of the community. Young people today are critical, and rightly so, and they question things. Therefore, these measures must be seen by them to be fair, just and credible, if they are to be acceptable. Widespread acceptability is essential for any measure of this sort.

Here we immediately come up against a dilemma. Is it possible for us to put these measures forward and ask that they be accepted and afforded credibility while at the same time, in our society, we tolerate the mass media promotion of alcohol [929] and nicotine? The situation in regard to advertising tobacco and drink will soon have to be seriously and fundamentally examined. It comes up in a very real and urgent way in our consideration of the Minister's proposals. Can we regard it as satisfactory that we promulgate these penalty provisions in regard to drugs, while at the same time we permit the expenditure of vast amounts of money every year on the promotion of other drugs which are, in their own way, perhaps, just as harmful? We will have to have a fundamental sorting-out of our priorities in regard to this whole situation.

The figures given by the Minister for drug offences are small and perhaps one could be complacent about them at that level but it is important to look at them against the comprehensive picture of drugs, drugs as they are described in these measures and other drugs. Somebody has said we have, to a large extent, a drug subculture and that subculture is not restricted to the younger section of the community. A person born into our society today is more likely to become harmfully addicted to alcohol or tobacco or, indeed tranquillizers or sleeping tablets than perhaps to some of the more colourful and lurid types of addiction with which this Bill, in the main, is concerned. I want to strongly emphasise that while this measure is welcome and important, it must be viewed against that more general and more comprehensive background and the need for a fundamental sorting out of our approach and our priorities in the entire area.

I want to mention one matter which can also be considered more carefully on Committee Stage. On looking through the Bill it struck me that there is no provision at all— perhaps this is deliberate—for making it an offence to take or consume a drug. The Bill refers to importing, exporting, selling, producing and so on—everything in fact—in connection with drugs except the actual taking of them—admittedly, that is not totally true because the Bill does say that the smoking of opium is an offence. Is it not necessary to stipulate [930] in the Bill that the actual consumption of a drug, such as any of these controlled drugs, is, in itself, an offence? If it is, it is not mentioned anywhere in the Bill? I wonder if it should be.

We are, of course, in this situation, faced with the problem of the need for a very sensitive and balanced approach. This is not the sort of situation where it is permissible to be dramatic. It has to be dealt with in a very restrained and careful way: one must not excite too much attention or curiosity. There is a danger that if one over-emphasises, or over-dramatises the drug situation, one attracts or directs the attention of young people to that situation in a way that might not otherwise happen. We must always keep that in mind when talking about these things. Therefore, if I do not lay undue stress on the extent or intensity of the problem in our society, I hope it will be understood that it is because I want to keep that other important consideration in mind, the consideration of not drawing lurid pictures in this House which would have a harmful effect on the impressionable.

It is important for us to realise that there are two broad categories of drugs involved. One, is the hard drug category and the other is that euphemistically known as soft drugs. It is important that a separate approach is adopted for both categories. It seems that in the context of a modern sophisticated society some drugs of these will always be with us and it is a question of developing our approach to them. In regard to the hard drugs, a much more ruthless approach in our thinking is called for.

We must, as far as possible, by stringent measures and controls, make these hard drugs completely unavailable, except where they are needed for medical purposes. I would criticise the Bill in this regard. It does refer to the different categories of drugs but it does not lay enough emphasis on the fundamentally different categories. The evil of the hard drug is something which can, perhaps, be totally eliminated whereas the soft drug is something which is endemic and will have [931] to be lived with and treated in an entirely different fashion.

I here mention a subsidiary but important aspect of this whole question which was adverted to by the Minister in his opening remarks in his reference to the international conventions. He said the Bill was designed to enable this country to ratify the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, 1961, and if necessary the Convention on Psychotropic Substances, 1971. Both these are United Nations Organisation conventions. I do not think anybody in the House would disagree with my urging the Minister to be a good international citizen and making sure that this country plays an active and leading role in trying to have this whole drug problem dealt with wisely and comprehensively at international level. Any contribution we can make or anything we can do to help in the world approach to the problem should be undertaken.

There are a couple of aspects of the Bill which I shall mention but, again, they are more appropriate to Committee Stage. We will come up on Committee Stage very fundamentally against these sections which give new powers to the Garda. We will have to examine them very carefully and go into them very closely. There is always a danger in this regard that we would allow the urgency of some particular problem to allow us to brush aside the fundamentally important things in our society. We might, in our anxiety to deal with this drug problem, urgent and important and widespread as it is, overlook the necessity to protect civil liberty and the legal rights of the individual citizen.

I want to direct the Minister's attention to this danger. We might agree that it is right and proper to give the Garda special arbitrary powers where drugs are concerned and the community might be prepared to waive certain rights to enable this problem to be dealt with, but how can we ensure or how can we guarantee that if the Garda are given certain draconian powers to deal with the drug situation those powers will not be used in other situations? If the Garda have the right [932] to search a premises without a warrant for drugs, how can we ensure that the Garda will not use that power to search a particular premises for some other purpose on the pretext of looking for drugs? This is something we will have to look at very carefully when we come to Committee Stage.

I should also like to mention to the Minister that we will be asking him very searching questions about this matter of putting the onus of proof on the defendant. Here again we come up against something pretty fundamental in our law and we must not, in our anxiety to deal with this urgent drug problem, interfere with something that is of basic importance in our law. The Minister stated that he is making an additional provision in regard to the necessity for the defendant in certain cases to prove his innocence but I still think it is something we will have to look at much more carefully.

The explanatory memorandum—it is a very helpful and useful explanatory memorandum—sets out for us a very convenient table of penalties but, unfortunately, in the actual table the word “punishment” is used instead of “penalties”. I hope that is not indicative of a particular outlook by somebody because it has undesirable and unacceptable overtones in this context. One is prepared to think in terms of punishment of pushers and pedlers but there are other people dealt with in these penalty provisions to which this word “punishment” is completely inapplicable.

Another aspect of this problem to which I would direct the Minister's attention is the fact that we are inclined to look upon this drug situation as entirely a Dublin problem. My information is that we cannot be complacent in that regard. There is a drug squad operating in Dublin but I am told that this problem is manifesting itself, to a greater or lesser degree and with greater or lesser intensity, throughout the country. Therefore, if there is any thinking in the Department or anywhere else that it is exclusively a Dublin problem that idea must be got rid of. In so far as any preventive measures are involved, they must be related to the [933] country as a whole. The Minister mentioned the unit in Jervis Street, and I would like to ask what progress is being made in providing the new unit, I think it is called the detoxification unit, which is on its way. I would like to know what progress is being made in the provision of that badly needed unit.

Another aspect of the Bill to which I should like to refer is the question of pushers and pedlars. Here, again, we have to be careful. There are two categories of pushers. There is the person who is addicted to drugs and in order to get supplies becomes a pusher but the basic motivation in pushing and peddling drugs is to meet his or her own unfortunate requirements. There should be a distinction made between a pusher who is an addict and the person who is just a cold, calculating pedlar of drugs for the money involved without being personally addicted. Even down to this degree there is a need to make careful and finely-balanced distinctions between the type of people we are dealing with and the type of penalties which are applicable.

The Bill, as the Minister has said, introduces a new and welcome innovation, in creating two types of possession, simple possession for one's own use and possession for sale and profit. Again, in the latter category there is a need to make, perhaps, even a further and finer distinction.

The Minister, obviously, had a sensitive area to deal with in this question of issuing directives to practitioners. I am very glad that in his remarks he was able to assure us that the provisions in sections 7 to 12 have been worked out in consultation with the various professions and that these provisions are agreed to by them. That is very important and it is very satisfactory that the Minister has made that approach and has gone carefully into these provisions with the responsible people who control these professions and has come up with an acceptable solution.

I welcome very much the approach in the Bill providing for a much wider range of sentences by the courts. In [934] future the courts will not be rigidly confined to sentencing people coming before them either to a fine or imprisonment. They will have another range of options open to them. That is very welcome. When we come to the Committee Stage we might be able to expand somewhat on that and I hope to make suggestions to the Minister of other means which the courts could employ to deal with the situations with which they will be confronted. There will be harrowing human situations and it is important that the courts have the widest range of options available to them, and the maximum amount of flexibility that we can confer on them, to enable them to deal with these very difficult situations. These situations will very often call for a great deal of understanding and compassion by the judge concerned. The Bill opens up possibilities here and gives us an opportunity to discuss with the Minister what other machinery can be made available to judges.

We, on this side of the House, welcome the Bill in as far as it goes. We hope to improve it at later stages of our discussions. We would like to emphasise that it should only be regarded as a beginning, that there is a widespread and far-reaching situation requiring to be dealt with. It will involve very important social decisions, decisions which may be difficult for us to take as a Legislature because at present we are countenancing the maintenance of our radio and television organisation by revenue from the advertising of alcohol and tobacco. We are accepting that the Exchequer should rely to a very considerable extent on revenue from these sources. We must get down to a fundamental examination of this whole area. We must recognise that while the measures introduced by the Minister are necessary they will not deal with the entire situation. If we are to do our duty fully and completely we will have to have much more comprehensive and far-reaching legislation to deal with the whole area of all drugs in our society.

Dr. Byrne: I should like to compliment the Minister for Health on bringing this Bill before the Dáil so [935] speedily. Very little action has been taken in regard to drug abuse since the initial move made by a previous Minister for Health, Deputy Seán Flanagan, who set up the commission to investigate drug abuse in this country.

The Minister's predecessor was triggered into action by the presentation of a Private Members' Bill here by the Fine Gael Party when they were in opposition. This resulted in the publication of the Misuse of Drugs Bill, 1972. The next step was the examination of this legislation, which was found to be very badly lacking in any effort to rehabilitate or treat or show compassion for offenders or abuses and also gave very limited powers to the Garda Síochána to help them carry out the duties assigned to them by this House.

The Minister is to be complimented on the sections of this Bill which give the Garda Siochana extra powers. I am more than satisfied that the delay in introducing this Bill, has resulted in a much more comprehensive piece of proposed legislation in two regards —the rehabilitation of the abuser and the power to search and arrest drug pushers.

No words of mine would be sufficient to compliment the Department on the manner in which they have done this. I am sure there were delays with the Department of Justice, with the Attorney General, in obtaining their views. The United States, which has one of the biggest drug abuse problems in the world, has always leant over backwards towards protecting the freedom and the privacy of the individual. In this way they have hampered the work of the investigators and the police authorities of that country.

What we have in this Bill will, of course be the forfeiture of certain rights by individuals throughout the State, in order that greater efficiency can be attained by the gardaí in the detection and prevention of drug abuse. Deputy Haughey in his contribution complimented the Minister on what he has done He is to be complimented on his new spokesmanship [936] and on his contribution. I am sure the legislation will be that much better because of the attitude of the Minister in having an open mind towards each section of this Bill and the contribution of the spokesman on health. It is always a help to have a good Opposition.

I want to comment on the general principles of this Bill. I sincerely hope it will not be an example of the way this House will treat problems which occur in the future and which confront our society. This problem is not confined to the cities or urban areas. We have a list here of convictions but nothing in regard to arrests made. It is not unusual to pick up the paper and read that 30 or 40 people have been arrested in a provincial town. This problem is widespread throughout the length and breadth of this island. It is widespread in the North of Ireland. It is rampant throughout the United Kingdom. We should have a definite, logical approach to drug abuse because we have a very homogeneous society, ethically pure. We do not have ghettoes of other racial groups in our community that can hide and have their own subcultures. We have everybody practically on the one plane, as pluralistic a society as one could hope to have. This unfortunate subculture exists; it is progressively getting worse and if we are honest with ourselves we will admit it is completely out of hand in this country.

Mr. Lalor: The Deputy is making a valuable contribution and I think he should have more colleagues to hear him. We have only two Deputies on each side of the House and one Press man. Mind you, the Press get very worried about people not being here.

Notice taken that 20 Members were not present; House counted and 20 Members being present,

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Deputy Byrne.

(Interruptions.)

Dr. Byrne: I was referring to the different Bills that had been introduced in the House. The Bill we have [937] here now is a much better Bill than either the Private Members' Bill or the previous Government's Bill. The previous Government's Bill was based entirely on the British legislation, which was introduced in 1971 by Reginald Maudling, the Home Secretary for the Tory Government at that time. It was in fact a blueprint of their legislation to all intents and purposes, with a little change here and a full stop there.

Notice taken that 20 Members were not present; House counted and 20 Members being present,

Dr. Byrne: The Bill which was introduced by the previous administration was based entirely on Reginald Maudling's Bill of 1971. The Fianna Fáil Private Members' Bill was a blueprint of that Bill of the previous administration which was a blueprint of the Tory Act. Our Bill is a far more comprehensive document providing for the rehabilitation, treatment, detection and prevention of drug abuse by apprehending the drug pusher as quickly as possible. However, I do not say that I agree with the extent of the penalties contained in this nor would I be as liberal as Deputy Haughey with regard to certain sections of it, to which he intimated he might be inclined to give further consideration. I would be rather fixed and definite in my approach to this. The penalties in some cases are fairly severe but in other cases they are not severe enough. For instance, why do we not have the deportation of any non-Irish persons who are caught and convicted for pushing drugs here? Why not deport them back to their own country? We have people deported to this country for merely being a member, for having signed a piece of paper, for the ideals that they hold. Here we can have foreigners coming over here, pretending to go to university, with drugs in their possession and if they are convicted being allowed to stay on. There was a case recently, down the country—I am not sure which constituency it was in but it was on the east coast—in which two people were caught growing a plant [938] that produces marijuana. They were only fined a few pounds. Both of them were foreigners and they are staying on in the same premises possibly growing the same thing but this time growing it a bit better and a bit more secretly where they will not be caught.

There was a certain amount of evidence to show that the particular plant had been smoked. Trinity College, Dublin is a nest and a hive for the production of LSD which is an hallucinatory drug and has caused suicides, congenital abnormalities and insanity. Yet there is no mention whatsoever of the deportation of students who are caught pushing this drug in Trinity, manufacturing it in Trinity. Leaflets containing the formula of LSD have been freely sold around the campus of Trinity College. Trinity has a high percentage of students from outside this country, the highest after the Royal College of Surgeons. It is here that we should look for it—in the areas of advanced study, where we have the highest percentage of overseas students. Those people live either on the campus or off the campus in certain areas. One does not like to say that they are the root cause of it without having definite proof, but for too long in this House we have been sweeping this problem underneath the carpet. We have been wanting things in either black or white with clear proof.

Recently we read in the newspapers that this problem has spread over towards University College, Dublin, that there was widespread drug abuse in the campus there. But if it had been knocked on the head in Trinity College earlier it would not have spread over towards UCD. It has got to the stage now where parents are apprehensive about sending their children to the Universities in this city, not that it is limited to either Trinity College or UCD. Cases have occurred in UCC and in other universities. Without appearing to be too radical in the punishment, I do not think it is a great punishment on anybody to be deported from this country because they have been pushing drugs under Schedule 1, the category one, two or [939] three drugs. They should be deported.

It struck me time and again when reading in the newspapers, accounts of people brought before the courts, the number of them who come from outside the country. An American, when he was asked why he was pushing drugs here said it was far easier to push them here, the penalties were so small compared with other countries. He said it was safer to push them here than anywhere else. The drug squad needs more attention. It has been increased but is not sufficiently strong to cope with the ever-increasing problem of drug abuse.

On the general area defined by the Minister, and I want to be as critical of this as I can be, regarding the person caught with drugs in his possession who is not fully compos mentis I would hate to see this section of the Bill abused by pushers. When they want stuff carried from point A to point B they get some poor lackey to do it on the grounds that when he comes before the courts he will get off because he is not in his full mental capacity. I would give deep consideration to that because drugs are carried from place to place not by the main pushers but by the insignificant traffickers who carry it from place to place. People from many different walks of life are used for this and many different methods are used to do it. This problem has got to be faced and we have to be open and frank about it although I appreciate what Deputy Haughey said about our not painting too lurid a picture about it; nobody wants to do that. However, we are legislating to prevent further escalation of this problem.

It is not so long ago since Members of this House said there was no problem in regard to drugs when it was there seething under their noses and Deputy Haughey was a member of that Administration. It is only a short time since we, when in Opposition, were told that a drug problem did not exist. I am glad Deputy O'Malley has arrived because on numerous occasions, when he was Minister for Justice, he said there was no problem, that we were all exaggerating the situation. [940] Deputy O'Malley has now introduced his own Bill, the blueprint of the previous Administration's Bill. In introducing it he recognises the need for it. I think it is a little too cumbersome, too detailed.

One has to appreciate the way the Garda Síochána can now move with a free hand and not as up to this where a member of the Garda Síochána or a superintendent had to go to a judge's house to get a search warrant. By the time they found the judge on a Saturday night and got it signed the party was over, the birds had flown. Now they can act on their own initiative and, perhaps, this will increase the efficiency. We hope it does increase the efficiency of the Garda Síochána Drugs Squad.

I am disappointed in the classification of the drugs amphetamine and cannabis to category II. These are the famous drugs of abuse of the jet set. They are those which are most popular in their abuse in the upper social economic group. These are the drugs which when abused can appear on some occasions to be contributory and compensatory and commensurate towards certain activities of life. Unfortunately, every drug of this kind has its side effects which can be the direct opposite over a long term to the effects which it was initially taken to produce. I am sorry to see that the penalties for possession of those two drugs, amphetamine, with its paranoical initiations, and marijuana, with its cerebral atrophic effects on the brain, in category II, are so small.

When a fashionable person comes back from holidays abroad or from a trip, he goes to a party and says: “Why do you not try this, do such and such and it will keep you awake for three or four weeks or try this other thing which will put you to sleep.” The people who move in that set can be very convincing. They belong to different professions, different occupations. They can spread very easily the use of these drugs and pollute younger people, people who are easily impressed by them. Our society is full of people like that.

In this regard it is not particularly [941] wrong for us to look upon the drug situation as similar to that of a contagious disease, where one person has the possession of the drugs, and uses them and gives them to those with whom he is in contact and are amenable to taking them. In this way it spreads from a focal point. In this way it has spread here. We are only putting our heads in the sands if we do not know where those points are or do not admit to where they are. It is our job as a legislature to provide the arm of the law, the Garda Síochána with the power to go in, eject, imprison, or deal otherwise with people who are abusing drugs here.

We are introducing a Bill which six years ago was introduced in France. One year after its introduction the French Home Secretary said it was not sufficient, and they would have to introduce life imprisonment or even the maximum penalty possible that any Legislature could impose upon any of them.

The sooner people understand that drugs can kill, do kill and have killed, the better. If a general practitioner or a doctor gives a slight overdose to a person it can kill. Here we are dealing with amateurs giving lethal doses of LSD, unfiltrated strengths of morphine, opium and heroin to children who do not know the first thing about them. It is no wonder we have had deaths in the city. In the last year we had four deaths from dicronal.

Notice taken that 20 Members were not present; House counted and 20 Members being present,

Dr. Byrne: It is unfortunate that the Deputy who called the quorum is not here to see how quickly the quorum arrived. Such, I suppose, are the tactics of a disenchanted Opposition party and, however often they might call a quorum to disrupt the business of this House, I can assure them that it will continue to go in its inimitable fashion. I was speaking of the problem of detection of drugs among abusers. There is a section in the Bill which is good in so far as it can protect those who are completely innocent of being involved in drug-taking. The attitude of the Minister [942] in this regard is to be commended, but I would caution this that it is too easy for everyone who would be at a drug party, or a party where drugs are being taken, to say: “I did not know anything was going on.” Anyone with an olfactory fibre of nerve in his nose could smell marijuana and for him to say he did not know and then to get off “scot free” is a very easy thing to put in writing but it is a very hard thing to repeal.

The greatest watchdogs to prevent the further escalation of this problem are people, concerned people, concerned teenagers, concerned sportsmen, who are integrated through every walk of life, concerned parents who are running a party for their children. I share, as much as any Deputy in this House, the great apprehension of children growing up in society. Have we done a survey on the institutions of education in this city or in this country? Have we surveyed girls' and boys' boarding schools to see whether there is a problem in them, as they have done in the United Kingdom? No, we have not. Well, we have not done it officially but certain people know that the problem is widespread. Certain people know that those in charge of these institutions do not know much about the detection of some of these drugs.

However if a student came in with two or three pints of shandy after playing a rugby match it would be known quickly enough that he had had a few jars, but if he came in reeking of marijuana smoke or if he came in on a trip from LSD, unless he went berserk, it would not be known. There is a tremendous need for greater vigilance amongst all people in positions of authority throughout the length and breadth of this island in order to prevent and to help children who are under their care. Parents can be far too lackadaisical in this regard. We had great examples of this in that long saga of protests of “Ban the Bomb” marches. I will not say much about them. It is the same with these pop festivals that were popularised. They were nothing more than mass drug-taking sessions.

Deputy Haughey's approach is [943] aesthetically stimulating. At the same time whether the deterrents he has in mind are sufficiently strong I do not know. We have a society introducing this legislation, penal as it is in certain regards and at the same time having billboards, television advertisements and buses full of signs advertising the consumption of alcohol which, in itself is a mind-changing drug. Deputy Haughey referred to the credibility we would have in knocking one drug, such as marijuana—I do not know whether he referred to that particularly but I am just giving this myself—and promoting the sale of alcohol. This is what we are doing. I suggest that we know pretty well the faults and the dangers and diseases produced by the consumption of alcohol to excess.

It is only lately, since marijuana became a problem in the United States in so far as it brought their army in Vietnam to a standstill, and research is being done with no consideration towards the cost or the money involved, that the side effects of marijuana have become known to the profession. It is seen now that marijuana can do terrible things. It can have the same effects as alcohol, certainly, but at ten thousand times the rate, causing decay of the brain, complete lack of initiative, loss of drive, loss of sense of purpose. The only one possible use that marijuana could have in the medical profession would be in the treatment of anorexia nervosa and it has been used successfully in experiments on this. That is the only possible use it could have, and all these lobbyists who went before their legislative assemblies in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, and the groups of people who put money into this—the Beatles, for instance, took a full page advertisement in the New York Times to promote the legalising of marijuana—now realise the effect this can have and has had. They can now see the solid indisputable medical facts that have come before the research establishments throughout the United States. Some groups did produce heretofore the research which showed that marijuana had no real ill-effects. We can be grateful that the side effects, severe [944] as they are, are before us now. I would like to see the Minister putting this drug into category I of the list of drugs, and including with it amphetamine and dexedrine—amphetamine, in particular, because it can be injected.

I should like to refer to the Minister's statement:

In short, drug possession cannot be seen in purely criminal terms in a humane society.

The maxim contained herein is to be admired but the causes and effects involved are ones into which deep research would be necessary and for which we cannot afford the time. It is a luxury to be able to afford time to research into why a certain group or category will abuse drugs. We have not got this time available. We have sat on this problem for a minimum of one decade. We did nothing about it. At a time when something could have been done this House did nothing. The Garda Síochána had no power to act; the medical profession had no money at their disposal to treat drug abusers. I would like to see this Bill get through the House, changed in the appropriate sections, in a stronger form with greater power of punishment for the true pusher who is not a taker, and far greater treatment facilities for the abuser who is hooked.

We know, in regard to the latter, that treatment facilities are not available here. There is no such unit here which could in any way give a guarantee of a 1 per cent rehabilitation success. I know we are completely naive and new to this in the profession but we should look at what the problems are. If it was not for the Jervis Street centre and for some of the great work done by the Junior Chamber of Commerce and the centre they opened at Coolmine treatment of drug addicts would be practically non-existent. We have nowhere to send anybody for in-patient treatment; certainly they can have out-patient treatment at Jervis Street Hospital but there is no institution one can send them directly into.

I do not accept Dundrum; I do not accept Usher's Island as working at [945] full efficiency. I do not accept the efficiency of the mental hospital institutions around the country as being a front for the treatment of drug abuse of Dublin. These are not efficient. Those involved in running them say that they are not efficient, they have staffing problems, they have back-up problems, social working problems and treatment problems.

Very often, as happened before, people can go along to these centres just to get substitutes. There is a greater need for a more comprehensive back-up service, fully financed and investigated with all the logistics gone into in the greatest of detail, whereby we can know where we are heading with this legislation and with the treatment of an addict.

We should know what the possibilities of rehabilitation are. It is essential that, just as in the treatment and detection of tuberculosis years ago, a similar type of scheme be considered here. It should be comprehensive in every facet of its intention.

I can see the legal profession making a few tidy shillings out of protecting and defending the more wealthy sections of society. Certainly there are loopholes in this legislation and, even though I am no legal luminary, I can see loopholes in sections of it. I should like to see—and I do not like to say it—a mandatory sentence, similar to what we have for driving while drunk. If a person has the drug in his possession for the purposes of selling it illegally, he should be given a mandatory sentence there and then by the judge without any of this poppycock of appealing and waiting on remand, during which time he could, perhaps, sell off a few more drugs to pay for the fine he is going to get.

It has been alleged too often by people around the country that if one is held up for not having tax cover on his car and brings a solicitor in to court he gets off but if one does not he is fined what it would have cost to bring the solicitor in, plus the tax. I am not happy, in fact, I am very apprehensive, about the ability of the legal profession to initiate the ideals that are involved in this Bill. I can see them making money out of it, the [946] children of rich parents getting off while the children of the poor are convicted. We want to introduce legislation which is similar for everybody and does not benefit one section more than another. We want to introduce legislation which primarily would have a deterrent effect, which would prevent people from doing this and not, as this legislation does, leave many loopholes.

The Minister, with the best of intentions brought in this Bill but the loopholes are there and they must be tightened. I would have no hesitation in saying that a semi-skilled junior barrister could drive a coach and four through that legislation in defending a person if the money was right.

Will children around the new towns and the local authority areas of this city get a fair crack of the whip? Certainly we can be happy enough that our children will be treated to a certain extent if we have the money in our pockets, but if we have not got hard cash who will get them off before the courts? Nobody should get off before the courts in regard to this legislation and this type of offence. If a person is caught pushing drugs, bringing them into a school or university, there should be a mandatory sentence and that person should be removed from the society in which he is moving.

If he is a foreigner he should be deported. If he is a student in a university he should be taken out, because students are very vulnerable. They are tomorrow's leaders and are very impressionable They have to be because they go to university. We have institutions in which there are groups of people from abroad and they have their own little closely-knit society. They use drugs. I will not say who I think they are but I know the ex-Minister for Justice, Deputy O'Malley, has a good idea.

Mr. Haughey: True.

Dr. Byrne: This problem only came to fruition when Deputy O'Malley was in the seat. When Deputy Haughey was Minister for Justice there was no drug problem. It was [947] when Deputy O'Malley was in charge that it happened. Here we have the situation right through the country at present. People under 18 years go into the pubs and get drink, which is a drug, because they have money in their pockets. They are accepted in the pubs and lounges. What do they do when they have a pint of cider or a pint of shandy in front of them? They get a tablet or a capsule and put it into it and off they go for their first little flight for the evening. I know this is widespread through school-going children. I shudder to think of the age at which they are starting. Somebody mentioned 12 years a few years ago but now it is a lot younger than that. In New York, they do today what we will do tomorrow. In the ghetto areas there the drug pushers, the famous candyman standing on the street corner gives the candy, which is laced with opium, to the child who comes back day after day looking for the sweet. Eventually that child ends up having opium injected into the pulp of his milk tooth. The child can provide a new source of revenue for the pusher. He can do that because of his stature and small size; he can sneak in and out of different places and rob things which could never be robbed before.

Anybody can get drugs to push provided he can provide a new market and does not encroach upon the market of some other drug pusher. It is an expanding trade, which is going on in every country. It is most remunerative. I agree with Deputy Haughey and the Minister that the drug pusher was not penalised to the full. I contend the legislation is too weak. Anyone pushing drugs to the extent that he is making a good living can buy a barrister, go into court and get off. A fine of £250 for a person pushing Chinese heroin, the most prevalent heroin in the city, is not enough. Drugs to the value of £250 could be contained in half a box of matches. The fines are not strong enough, the loopholes are too great and the fact that a person can be remanded for so long before he gets his sentence is not satisfactory.

The Minister mentioned that the Bill [948] would enable this country to ratify the Convention on Narcotic Drugs, 1961, and the Psychotropic Substances, 1971. One thing about the previous Administration was that they were never associated with any international drug advisory body in regard to the prevention of the spread of drugs. They never at any stage consulted with countries abroad. The furthest they went was the United Kingdom and then merely blueprinted what Deputy O'Malley brought before this House a while ago, Reginald Maudling's Home Office Bill. I am not surprised because he was Minister for Justice at the time when Reginald Maudling brought his Bill in. The importance of being associated and actively participating in European organisations and the World Health organisation sub-committee, which circulates the information available to them on research and abuse, is vital for the efficiency of any legislation being introduced. We have fallen down badly on that. We must involve ourselves to a greater extent in participating in such organisations.

A few years ago people said it was impossible to grow marijuana in this country. Certain areas of the country are most conducive to the cultivation of it. Marijuana has been grown in this country, and it will be grown in the future unless the Garda are sufficiently trained to detect its growth.

I appeal to parents to safeguard their supplies of tablets. There is no doubt that the sleeping tablet trick is very prevalent at present in surgery. If a person has any trouble at all in sleeping he gets sleeping tablets. They do not always protect the places where these tablets are stored. I have seen children under the age of ten taking sleeping tablets without knowing what they were. This is prevalent. The aspro is a drug which is abused. It has a tranquillising effect and it is abused to a great extent. If mixed with drink, a half-dozen or a dozen aspros can have a tranquillising effect on a teenager. They are mixed with drinks which have a mild stimulant in them. I will not mention any more about which drugs do what. We know, and the Minister knows about them. The Minister's advisers know about them.

[949] There is one tablet which I will mention and I do not care how much publicity it gets. It is the precursor of much of the abuse which we are experiencing here. It is a tablet which is sold over the counter in chemists' shops and is advertised in daily newspapers. I even saw it advertised on television the other day. It is freely available to everyone regardless of age. I will not give the name of the tablet as it might be better if I mentioned it to the Minister first.

This tablet is advertised as having many different types of effect. It is freely available, neatly concealed, fully legitimate and has been on sale now for a vast number of years. The importance of it never struck me until recently when I could see the extent to which it was taken. I will take the liberty of mentioning it to the Minister privately afterwards, if I may.

On the radio every morning we have a tablet advertised for children, which is equivalent to so many oranges. I appeal to parents not to be giving children tablets going to school. It does not matter how innocent they are. If they get into the habit of taking tablets and pills with their lunch or their morning break it is not very good. I appeal to parents to abstain from giving their children these things and I appeal to drug companies not to advertise these things. Every morning on the radio we have a particular tablet advertised that children are encouraged to take into school with them. It now has come out in the form of chewing-gum and a child can take his tablet to school and chew it instead of dissolving it in water. Whereas this is a very good thing I think we have to err on the side of correction rather than on the side of being permissive.

In this regard I want to refer back to the fact that we will lose a lot of our freedoms—our freedom of movement, our freedom of association—by allowing the Garda Síochána to have these powers. I think this is right. Society must give part of its liberty if we are to segregate this potentially dangerous cancer that is in our midst. It is there because we are of a different generation. Everybody in this [950] House is of a different generation to the drug sub-culture age group generation type. It has been referred to that every child is now in an environment where drugs are freely available from his friends. This will not be contradicted. There is no child in this country who will contradict that statement, which was made here in the House and which I am endorsing in so far as I can.

From secondary school onwards the drug problem is a big one which confronts a child. Then the child goes through puberty, is self-conscious and so consciousness exists and experimentation, and so on, can go on. In that regard I think the Minister has the right idea in educating the teachers but I would not like to see children being educated towards drugs because it would stimulate their curiosity. If they are normal children they get more curious. This would have a bad effect because they do not always take in everything they are told at the same time.

This encourages a bad approach towards education in the schools and that is why I am not completely in favour of it but certainly I am in favour of seminars for teachers. We are then back to the old problem. Once you detect what do you do? Rehabilitation? Where? Treatment? Where? I know we can be blasé and say we have the Dundrum Centre and Usher's Island and every mental institution and psychiatrist is equipped. In theory they are but in practice what have we got? Nothing. There is no place where you can send a child and have a reasonable chance of him coming out. The optimum rehabilitation success is one per cent over a five-year period. One per cent in five years is very, very good but we have no institution that can guarantee that or that even comes near it because they have not been long enough in existence and their staff is interchangeable. We should always attempt to have, where possible, Irish psychiatrists treating Irish children. That does not always happen.

It has to be said—I hope the Minister does not take offence—that people in the psychiatric services do not [951] always percolate towards a fringe ailment like this. It is not the brightest light in the psychiatric profession. It is a salaried type of job. It is repetitive and mostly unrewarding. In this regard I would like to pay the highest possible tribute to the members of the profession who are working so diligently under such adverse circumstances. I will not mention anybody in particular but I think the Minister knows to whom I am referring. Is it not a wonderful thing to see the Junior Chamber of Commerce coming out to raise money to set up a rehabilitation unit? We should have sufficient money in the Department of Health Estimate to provide for a well-controlled, properly-staffed, efficient unit. I am not saying that units should be set up in every county or in every health board area but there should initially be one drug treatment centre unit.

I am delighted to see that the Minister has in this Bill a section dealing with treatment. No other Bill had that in it. I would like to see it a bit stronger. This Bill, in so far as rehabilitation and treatment are concerned, outshines any other piece of legislation that has been produced in Europe in so far as those sections are concerned. There is no legislation on drug abuse in any country in Europe that has those sections so comprehensively written into it. I am sure they will be added to by the Opposition and I am sure they will be further expanded by the Minister. The people should be grateful. The delay in the introduction of the Bill was justified. Now that we have these sections written in let us go a step further and provide the services to which these sections refer. When this Bill is enacted let us not forget about the provision of those services. They are essential. Legislation should not be passed just for the sake of passing it.

I want now, briefly, to refer to the references made in the Minister's speech to the social, economic and educational fields. There is no point in molly-coddling about this. Parents are the greatest influence on children. They must take the initiative and [952] stimulate their children more. It does not always have to be discipline. The most relevant line in the Minister's brief is:

There is a direct correlation between the availability of drugs and the prevalence of abuse.

I presume the Minister means the illegal availability of drugs. Naturally he is perfectly right. When we put in a sentence like that why do we not tackle the problem of availability in a realistic manner? I contend that a fine of £250 for selling heroin without being addicted is not a realistic approach. If the Minister is not happy with three categories in this Bill he should change it to five and isolate those hard drugs, which are abused continually and which kill, into categories. They should not be phased into three categories.

It is quite possible for a person to take phenobarbitone, push it, inject it into other people and pay the £100 fine. The next time they can come along with benzedrine, dexedrine, amphetamines or cannabis and pay £150. The third time they can come along with category 1 drugs of heroin, pethidine, cannabinol and others listed in the Bill and pay £250. That is not tackling the availability of drugs in a realistic manner. If a person gets into his car and drives down the road with over the limit of alcohol in his blood he is deprived of his licence for a year, even if he only had six or seven pints of beer. I think three is the limit. Here a person can flog drugs, pay £100 in category 3, £150 in category 2 and £250 in category 1.

That is for possession, without indictment. The principle is the same. The fines are not strong enough. It is too simple to get away. We have no register of drug addicts or drug pushers except in relation to a criminal record. These are things which should be contained in this Bill.

Drug addicts present a great problem in hospital out-patient departments, doctors' surgeries and in hospital wards. They are a bigger problem this year than last year. The problem has been increasing over the last ten years. I appeal to all sections [953] of society, especially to all leaders of society to discourage people from using chemical aids. As has been mentioned alcohol has always been a problem since time immemorial because it is a type of drug and it is popular. It oils the wheels of commerce. Regardless of what compounds exists around the world liquor is quicker and slicker than anything else if one wants to do a deal.

It is the agent of commercial facilitation in the western hemisphere as opium is in the eastern hemisphere. We are dealing with something which is alien to our society and traditions. Although alcohol, with its problems, has always been a component part of life it still does not mean it can be condoned. I am pointing out that if a person has taken excessive alcohol and drives it is right to take away his licence but if a person has a bag full of heroin he only has to pay a fine of £250 or sometimes he can get away scot free.

Elaborate detection work in finding out the number of milligrammes per millilitre of alcohol in a person's blood has to be pursued before a person loses his licence. If a person has a bag of heroin on him surely it is simple to analyse that, have it witnessed and impose a severe sentence so that he cannot get away with it. If one compares this legislation with that for drunken driving it will be a bonanza for the legal profession.

Notice taken that 20 Members were not present; House counted and 20 Members being present,

Dr. Byrne: On the last page of the Minister's brief he referred to the fact that the problem while growing, is a small one by international standards. That is an interesting statistic but I shall say no more than that about it because it is not relevant to any degree in a practical sense to what is before us, to the problem we are trying to tackle. It cannot be of any significance because it is purely a comparison between this country and other countries and the sooner we stop comparing our country with other countries in the field of drug abuse, the better. To carry it a stage [954] further there is no need for legislating if we compare ourselves with other countries because in that sense we have not got a problem.

I do not want to see the Minister or his officials take the step or fall into the trap which previous Administrations have done over the past ten years, of failing to face up to the fact that the drug problem in this country is realistic, is solid, and is frightening to parents. It is a problem that is spreading through every form of society. Just as the teenager schoolchild will take illegal drugs so also will the adult or the parent take legal tranquillisers or sleeping tablets. One big problem in suburbia today concerns the slimming tablets being taken by females and, in certain cases, by males, because people on those drugs find it necessary to take sleeping tablets to counteract the effect of the slimming tablets. All the effects of the slimming tablets is lost after a very short time and the tablets continue to be taken purely for their effects on the central nervous system. The only thing that was ever done in regard to drug abuse in this country was the removal from the list of certain tablets which could then be obtained only by way of special licence.

Now whether that was a good thing or a bad thing remains to be seen. It has resulted in a diminution in the amount of these compounds prescribed.

The Department of Health have to all intents and purposes neglected this field of drug abuse. There is not an adequate squad in the Garda Síochána to deal with the problem. The scene is dreadful. We are not so complacent if we are following behind streams of drug abusers in Grafton Street or St. Stephen's Green. We cannot let children go in there anymore.

We do not have a comprehensive list of the types of drugs that are taken in certain places or the types of offences that are compatible with drug taking. All we know is that there are housebreakings, raids on chemists' shops, muggings, and raids on doctors' cars. All these offences are associated with the drug problem. When we read [955] of people being held up and their wallets or handbags taken for the sake of a few mere pounds, then we know that we are in the midst of a realistic drug problem. The great difference between an alcoholic and a drug addict is that while an alcoholic will steal money for drink, a drug addict will kill for it.

How often have people broken into houses or assaulted people in places where drugs might be kept? It is very frightening to realise that because of the lack of legislation there is this widespread problem and, by “widespread” I do not mean that every second person or 20 per cent or even 1 per cent of the population have to be involved. The person with a drug problem has that problem 24 hours of the day for 365 days of the year. The consumption increases until eventually death occurs because of lack of treatment.

We have no treatment in this country to speak of. We have a wide availability of drugs because we have no legislation to speak of and we have a lovely ethnic group of healthy teenagers willing to experiment with drugs. This is a paradise for the drug pusher. The taker cannot be taken out of society because there is no legislation for that and even when we pass this Bill there will be no place in which to put him. So he stays on—a constant source of remuneration for the pushers. There never has been legislation that would prevent the pushers in this country and, consequently they are secure. They have a constant supply and they have a constant market, an ever-increasing market. We can only expect this problem to continue increasing gradually polluting the minds, the physiques, and the sight of our children.

Indeed, one might say that the secret of success for any child going to secondary school today is to stay off drugs. Those who take drugs lose their initiative to learn. I have said before but I should repeat that there is great need for the maximum possible penal sentence to be imposed on the classic drug pusher.

[956] The problem has never been recognised, colour, race or creed. It does not start off in the poorer societies and end up in the richer societies. Neither does it start off in the richer and end up in the poorer. It is throughout society. One does not necessarily have to feel insecure or ill at ease with oneself to take drugs. A recent event occurred in an institution in this city where tea urns were laced with LSD. The staff of that institution were affected by the intake of the drug to a degree which turned out to be embarrassing. A jamjar full of LSD up in Bohernabreena and everybody would be hopping around. It is not impossible to visualise some unfortunate person with a psychiatric problem being given this drug as a joke.

The Phoenix Park, for example, a couple of years ago was an area regarded by users as being safe for experimenting with LSD because there was no lake to jump into nor rocks on which one could injure oneself. The problem is not confined to Dublin; It is prevalent throughout the country. If we had the proper statistics available, they would probably show that the greatest number of convictions of Irish people has taken place outside this city. It is only recently that it has come into the local authority areas of the city. It was in the upper echelons of Booterstown and Blackrock before it spread over the north side, but it is another day's work to go into the general trend.

Certain people speak with compassion about the present day so-called squatters in local authority dwellings. We have compassion for the genuine squatter but in the centrally-heated Ballymun flats they are hippies, drug takers, from the communes of Booterstown, who have moved in and squatted in Ballymun. There have been three deaths among them and no action has been taken. Break-ins are rife and the decent honest people in the area are being tarred with the same brush. These people should be dealt with by the Department of Justice. They should be taken out. It is not a problem for the local authority to evict squatters here and there, these people are drug abusers [957] and should be tackled as such: squatting is only secondary to the form of life they are engaged in.

They were comfortable in such places as Dún Laoghaire and Foxrock but that is no reason for them to come into local authority dwellings. Some of these people are not even married, but are living together with children, sometimes not their own children. They are severely affecting the life pattern of those who have settled in so well and who are trying to make Ballymun a town that is to be admired and looked to in relation to every other similar development both in this country and in Europe. The people there cannot afford to rehabilitate these hippies or drug takers. But we are producing a Bill that does not provide for that because of the fact that the penalties are not great enough and there is not enough power being given to the Garda Síochána. I would have no hesitation in treating this problem in a fascist manner until such time as it is eradicated. Then there can be the tolerance and all the principles that are compatible with the views expressed by the various speakers on this problem during the past number of years.

It is a luxury to condone drug-taking. It is a complete luxury to think that we have time on our hands, and one cannot be crititcal enough of the Department in attempting to compare us with any other country. De facto every other country is worse than us because they have statistics. They know what the problem is and we have no such statistics. They have lists of “pushers” and drug addicts. We have none. All we have here are the figures for people who were convicted of drug offences. These bear no relations to the number brought before the courts for possession but in respect of whom the charges could not be proved.

The Minister said that it is probable that much of the growth is attributable to perhaps once only experimentation with cannabis. That sentence hangs on its own; we do not know whether it is a once-only experimentation. We could be reasonably sure that if a person is taken before the courts, he could say “it is the first [958] time I ever did it” and in so far as that is concerned it might only be the first time that the experiment occurred. I would, however, find it hard to believe that if a group of people took cannabis for the first time they would not be diligent about the area they take it in and in making sure they would not be caught. Therefore, I find that sentence difficult to accept. It would be the careless cannabis smoker, the careless marijuana abuser, who would be caught and not the careful first taker.

It is only right that we should establish a direct relationship between drink and drugs. We cannot condone drugtaking in any form because they lead to stronger drugs. In respect of alcohol the strongest that can be taken is in the form of liqueurs but the hard drugs lead to death. If the Minister wants to compare the number of drug deaths to the number of convictions he would find that we would be out of all proportion to any other country in Europe even to compare the number of deaths to the population or to the age group of the population. The proportion would be very high. These are the figures we want.

We do not want to whitewash this. The problem is there and must be treated in a radical fashion. I want to say in passing that other countries have come to terms with this. If the Minister or any member of the Opposition wishes to say that other countries cannot come to terms with this, I can cite examples of two countries that have—Japan and the USSR. Have we as a Government, as a legislative body, ever attempted to see what type of legislation these countries introduced? We have not. We have dragged our heels on it year in, year out. Deputy Haughey said that Desmond O'Malley's Bill was the catalyst to the introduction of this Bill. Deputy O'Malley was in a Cabinet that was, perhaps, more inactive in regard to this problem than any Cabinet could conceivably be. Prior to 1969 there were more dramatic changes taken in the Department under Deputy Seán Flanagan when he set up a committee but there was not [959] then a semblance of the problem we have here. So, one can look forward to the rapid passage of this Bill, to the constructive criticism of it and to the effective handling of the sections which are vitally important to each and every one.

Finally, I appeal to the Minister and to the spokesman for the Opposition to insist on an increase in the penalties. The Committee Stage of this Bill could be dealt with by one of the sub-committees of the Oireachtas. It is a lengthy Bill, very detailed, very specified, very specialist and deserves much attention.

Mr. Esmonde: Deputy Byrne has rightly said, this is a very technical Bill and one which calls for very careful consideration at the Committee Stage. It is a highly technical matter. It is dealing with matters of science and with a very potent part of science, namely, the misuse of scientific knowledge. People who have scientific knowledge, if they are prepared to use it for illegal or improper purposes, are, by nature of their activity, bound to give rise to considerable difficulties. This poses a considerable problem for the legislators, for the Government and for the draftsmen in trying to prepare the necessary and adequate legislation. We must acknowledge that this legislation will probably, in time, be regarded as very inadequate when the minds of the lawyers and of guilty parties and, perhaps, of social workers come to the actual day-to-day application of the various sections of this Bill.

The Bill is a brave and well-merited attempt to try to deal with this very dangerous problem of the misuse of drugs. I can see the Minister's problem in relation to dealing with the criminal side and at the same time dealing with the sociological and medical problems that are so inherent in this subject. I go along with Deputy Byrne when he says that a tough and ruthless attitude must be adopted in relation to anything that is classified as an offence under this Bill. I would advocate every measure being used and that the law be stretched to its maximum to control and to prevent, where possible, the misuse of drugs. There is an attitude [960] of mind here and in England and under the common law system of allowing a man to be regarded innocent until he is proved guilty. When one is dealing with the matter of drugs one has to go a little further or, should I say, one has to detract a little bit from the application of that purpose because the subject is such a serious one.

This is what the Bill attempts to do in section 15 and this is referred to specifically by the Minister in his opening statement as being a problem. He says he adopted a tough line whereby anybody in possession of drugs would be regarded, more or less prima facie as a guilty party. In other words, if a person has drugs on him he must prove that he has got them innocently and lawfully and that they were to be used for a lawful purpose.

The Minister referred specifically to section 15, subsection (2) of the Bill. As this is a very important part of the Bill, I might be entitled to read out the subsection as I should like to comment on certain wording in it. Otherwise, my comments might seem to be out of context. This section deals with the possession of controlled drugs for unlawful sale or supply. Subsection (1) deals with the offence and reads:

Any person who has in his possession, whether lawfully or not, a controlled drug for the purpose of selling or otherwise supplying it to another in contravention of regulations under section 5 of this Act, shall be guilty of an offence.

That states the offence. In subsection (2) we deal with the actual proceedings, and this is where we come to deal with this principle of innocence or guilt and the onus of proof. This is, basically, a new type of legislation in our law. It imports a new principle and a new way of thinking on criminal offences. There are sections in some other Acts dealing with criminal offences. I think there is one in the 1951 Criminal Justice Act where, if a person has possession of certain equipment that would suggest illegal purposes, and certainly not being held for the good of a person's health. Subsection (2) deals with the possession of drugs and reads:

In any proceedings for an offence [961] under subsection (1) of this section, where it is proved that a person was in possession of a controlled drug and the court, having regard to the quantity of the controlled drug which the person possessed or to such other matter as the court considers relevant, is satisfied that it is reasonable to assume that the controlled drug was not intended for the immediate personal use of the person, he shall be presumed, until the court is satisfied to the contrary, to have been in possession of the controlled drug for the purpose of selling or otherwise supplying it to another in contravention of regulations under section 5 of this Act.

This is a very important subsection. It is a focal point, and everything evolves around it in any prosecution under this Act. I want to bring to the notice of the Minister a matter which may give rise to difficulties and might have the effect of preventing a justice or court from convicting a person by virtue of the danger that this subsection contains and it is contained in the words: “having regard to the quantity of the controlled drug ... which the person possessed”.

I know there is some method of control which the medical profession have in relation to the amount being prescribed. Very often the medical profession are assisted by the pharmacy profession in this regard, preeminently because a pharmacist is better qualified to deal with quantities than a doctor is. It is more his line. Although a doctor prescribes the quantity to be used, basically this is looked at by the pharmacist who checks that the doctor does not dish out a poisonous or a very dangerous dose. If a court are trying a person they could have it put to them by the person accused of an offence that the quantity the person had in his possession could be a quantity prescribed by a doctor.

Notice taken that 20 Members were not present; House counted and 20 Members being present,

Mr. Esmonde: I was dealing with section 15 subsection (2) before Deputy Allen's enlightened remark for [962] which I am sure my constituents will be very grateful. That was his contribution to this debate. In relation to section 15 subsection (2) I was pointing out that there was a danger in the wording because of the use of the word “quantity”. I can see a lawyer making a very plausible defence for an accused person and raising a doubt in the mind of the court. All the defence has to do is to raise that doubt and that is the end of the charge. The section might require to be looked at again. It would be tragic if an important section like this could be availed of and utilised by a delinquent to avoid the very purpose and intent of this Bill.

Speaking as a lawyer, I would be concerned at the wording having regard to “quantity”. While it might be said that this makes it much easier to prove the offence, at the same time it has what I would call the rebound effect. All lawyers are aware of this in legislation. It has to be very carefully watched. It does not come readily to the mind of the ordinary layman when looking at legislation. I hope very careful consideration will be given to the dangers and difficulties. I am quite certain that prolonged thought has already been given to this section. I feel I would not be doing my duty if I did not advert to this difficulty.

In relation to the powers given to the Garda Síochána in the investigation of drug abuse where there is a suspected contravention of the provisions of this Bill, section 26 deals with the matter of search warrants. I may not be correct, but I understand that, in relation to matters dealing with drugs, dogs have been used, particularly Labradors. They have been found to be very effective and most useful in ascertaining the existence of drugs.

I notice that the wording of this section which provides that the warrant is to be issued by a justice refers to one member of the Garda Síochána accompanied by others. The other members do not have to be named. I could see a person possibly raising an objection to any admission of an animal to their premises, and they might have good cause for that, [963] if they had breeding stock or anything like that, or a person was seriously allergic to an animal. There are cases of that. I think a person who objected to this would be upheld by a court of law. Therefore, there should be provision to deal with this type of situation, on the basis of animals or equipment used for the purpose of investigation. In view of the fact that section 26 specifically refers to one named garda being given the power to enter and search, it might be read by a court as just limiting it to that, and that there is no provision for any equipment or anything else being brought into the premises for the purpose of carrying out the investigation. There are other medical speakers who probably will have much to contribute on this subject. Therefore, I will curtail my remarks until Committee Stage.

Dr. O'Connell: I welcome this Bill. It is interesting that we should have, in a very short space of time, two Bills on the misuse of drugs. The delay in introducing this Bill has been criticised by me but, on reflection, I am inclined to think that perhaps it was a good thing that the other Bill did not become law because, being absolutely objective about this, I must admit that this is a very attractive Bill. It shows concern and sympathy, understanding of the whole question of drug abuse and its victims. Whereas, the previous Bill laid emphasis on the punishment aspect of it, this Bill emphasises the importance of and makes provision for institutions, the assistance of these people, giving help to people in need of it. This Bill shines because of its emphasis on the sympathetic attitude towards the drug abuser.

Although I may be accused of deviating from the Bill I think it is appropriate that I should deal with drugs in general and the psycho-active drugs in particular. We are living in a drug-orientated society and age and we have got the foolish, illusory notion that there is a pill for every ill. We must re-educate our people into realising that there is no such thing as the panacea drug that will cure all [964] the illnesses of society. Unless we adopt this approach we may find ourselves more dependent on drugs. We may not be talking about the simple drug abusers, as we are inclined to term them; we may be talking about the whole society. This is a situation which calls for attention and action. I may quote the anecdote of the fellow who was arrested in his house and his mother, for the first time, realised that he was a drug addict, that he had been taking the seconal drugs, the barbiturates. His mother went berserk at the thought that he would take “goof balls”. “This is terrible”, she said. “I cannot tolerate it. I had better take my sleeping capsule and go to bed”. In fact, she was a drug addict. We have a doublethink on the whole question of drug abuse. We may be condemning the young people unnecessarily when we ourselves are to blame for the situation that has developed.

We are being conditioned through television and radio advertising into believing that there is a drug for every need. We are allowing our young people, at their most impressionable age, to be conditioned into thinking this. The advertisements are constantly blaring out at them on television—when sympathy alone is not enough, take such-and-such a drug. This is the harm we are doing to our people. We are allowing it to take place; we have no control over it; we are not trying to exercise control over it. We must understand the whole background to drug abuse. A medicine cabinet, in some shape or form, can be found in any home today, with tablets and capsules of every type. One sees adults throwing back capsules or tablets, the tonics or antidepressants, the psycho-active drugs. We are paving the way for this drug-orientation. his is what we should bear in mind. This is how we must talk about tackling our drug abuse problem. We must give the lead; we must educate them. But we must set the example. There is no use in a woman with a gin-and-tonic in her hand telling her son he is a drug addict and he has no right to be when, she herself is taking a drug in some other form. We talk about prisons [965] for people but what about alcoholism? It is a socially acceptable norm. This is what is pathetic about it. Alcohol is socially acceptable but the drug, that innocent drug, cannabis—I am preaching a heresy here in saying this —which we are condemning is a drug which to my mind is almost innocuous by comparison—and I qualify it by saying this—with a much more dangerous and deadly drug which we have and which is even prescribed.

We, as a medical profession must bear a large share of the responsibility for the habituation, the drug dependence which has developed in our society. I say this at the risk of offending colleagues of mine. It is not a joke, it has happened that the nurse has wakened a patient at 1 o'clock or 2 o'clock in the morning saying “you forgot to take your sleeping tablet”. This is true. It is indicative of the thinking that has gone on. I remember incurring the wrath of a sister in a hospital when I refused to take a barbiturate tablet at night.

We are talking about drug abuse, we are talking about legislation, but we must talk about education, and about changing our attitude. Otherwise, we are negative in our approach. We talk of fines and punishment. We have to tackle the wide spectrum of drug use and abuse in its broadest sense. Both doctors and patients are at fault. When a patient sees a doctor, the patient thinks the consultation is not satisfactory unless there is a prescription at the end. The doctor, in turn, feels that he has not reassured the patient unless he prescribes a drug. There is a vicious circle here. I think that both need the education.

We would be a far better-off society if barbiturates were removed from the scene. That is saying something for which I will be condemned very much. I can say I will not prescribe barbiturates except in one particular case, for epilepsy. Otherwise, I do not see where there is justification for them. I have some figures here relating to drug dependency. These are cases registered at Jervis Street Hospital. By comparison with, say, cannabis, there were 166 cases in six months of barbiturate addicts attending at Jervis Street Hospital, a figure exceeded only [966] by alcohol addicts at 212.

It galls me that the Department— not the Minister—have not seen fit to include barbiturates and all forms of barbiturates, not just the few he has mentioned. I would ask his advisers to have a look again at the whole range of barbiturates and include them in Part I, Category I, Controlled Drugs. I would like to see barbiturates put there because they are as dangerous as heroin, morphine and pethidine derivatives.

To equate cannabis, which does not give rise to addiction, with barbiturate is ludicrous and to my mind shows an appalling ignorance on the part of the people who drafted this Bill. They are my views on it and I will be accused of preaching heresy. We are looking wrongly at the whole problem and I would ask, knowing the Minister's concern about this problem, that we should carry out a proper educational campaign both for the profession and the public about psycho-active drugs and their use. I would consider that a properly handled educational programme might achieve a lot more in preventive medicine than all this legislation. I would praise the Minister because I see his emphasis on and sympathy with the person, the humane approach, which evokes my admiration. Before this it was a matter of the person going to prison and there was no question of treatment. This to me was a very, very wrong and inhuman approach to the problem.

The one problem which I did not hear mentioned here concerns treatment. When you get the drug addict there is provision for treatment but there is no provision for treatment centres. This is an aspect of the matter which must be looked at very, very carefully because you cannot offer treatment unless you have adequate treatment centres. We have not got such centres but we have to provide them if we want to talk about treatment. We will have to go one step further and say: “Have we got the treatment centres? Have we got the follow-up on these patients? Have we got the proper facilities for rehabilitation?”

I see many of those people making [967] genuine attempts and there is no follow-up and no effort to get them rehabilitated in society where they have a very useful part to play. So many of them want to do this, want to pull themselves up but they find they are at a tremendous disadvantage. I know the problem arises in Jervis Street that they do not have the beds to provide the treatment, they do not have sufficient facilities to follow up on these cases. I make a plea on their behalf to the Minister to ensure that when this Bill becomes law and comes into effect there will be facilities provided for those people.

I dwelt on cannabis casually there, but I think we should understand about cannabis because every time we talk about drug addiction we talk about marijuana and the emotional connotations associated with this relatively innocuous drug are really ridiculous. As I have said, I will be accused of preaching a heresy in saying this but I believe it has a useful place in the medical armamentarium. We must not assume that people who smoke a reefer are drug addicts. In the young person there is a tendency to experiment, to be as good as his peers, to turn on, so to speak, and many a youngster has experimented with cannabis in some form or other. Cannabis is no more dangerous than a glass of beer. If anyone doubts me on this I would ask him to investigate very seriously the work that has gone into the effects of cannabis and the studies—and there have been many— that have been undertaken. We had the Indian Hemp Commission of 1894, we had the La Guardia Commission of 1944 and we had the Wootton Commission of 1964. The Wootton Commission which was the British Government advisory committee appointed to review the available evidence on the pharmacological, social and legal aspects of cannabis reported in 1969 after five years. They said and I quote:

Having reviewed all the material available to us——

That, by the way, extends to millions and millions of words, there have been volumes and volumes written about it——

[968] ——we find ourselves in agreement with the conclusion reached by the Indian Hemp Drugs Commission appointed by the Government of India of 1894 and the New York Mayor's Committee on Marijuana of 1944 and their conclusion is that the long-term consumption of cannabis in moderate doses has no harmful effects whatsoever.

That is taken from paragraph 29. I would like to ensure that we put out of our minds that this is a terribly dangerous drug. I am speaking as I am because when we overemphasise that a drug is dangerous, it can have a rebound effect on a young person and prompt him to try it. I used lecture a lot on drug abuse and before studying the full effects of cannabis and the experimental work and the research that has gone into it I was inclined glibly to say that it was a very dangerous drug, a drug of addiction. I found that this was having a reverse effect on the young people in youth clubs where I used lecture. I decided to investigate it further and read the literature on it and I found that I was not right.

I have since come to the absolute conclusion—and I will be attacked very shortly in the Press by Dr. O'Connor of the Pharmaceutical Society who will attack me viciously over this as he has done in the past— that we might be losing our heads over the effects of this drug. If a person has a reefer on him, for having possession of it he could get five years. To me that is a very serious matter and I would ask the Minister to look carefully at that again.

If a person is found with a reefer, a marijuana cigarette in his pocket and if he decides for trial by jury he could get a £1,000 fine or five years or both. That to me is unfair and unjust. I cannot equate that with a much more serious drug of physical and psychological dependence, the barbiturates and the others such as the methaqualone and the nandrax tablets which are much more serious and the real drugs of addiction. They are even worse. They are in Part III; they are considered much less potent—this is what is so ludicrous—than the cannabis [969] or the cannabis resin, which is in Part II of controlled drugs.

I would very seriously ask the Minister to be objective about this. I know he is guided by his advisers but perhaps, he might ask them to revise the literature on the effects of cannabis, study the Wotton Report, the La Guardia Report, and the Indian Hemp Commission Report, before coming to the conclusion that cannabis is such a frightfully dangerous drug. There is no evidence that cannabis consumption has led to further addiction or consumption of other drugs. This point must be borne in mind by the Minister.

Perhaps I am a little disjointed in my discussion of this but I have mislaid all my notes. A problem may arise about the drug amphetamine, which is a stimulant drug. I say that because we are ahead of Great Britain in our attitude towards this drug, a most interesting one which has found great popularity among the women who are seeking dieting treatment. Whilst giving them energy it also helps them to reduce weight. It had a great popularity up to the time the late Mr. Childers had it banned here.

The problem arises because it is not banned in Britain; it is available on prescription as an appetite suppressant and stimulant.

Where we have the free flow of our citizens from Britain we may find ourselves, perhaps, arraigning these people before the courts because they have in their possession amphetamine which may have been acquired legitimately in Britain. This is the problem which should engage the attention of the Minister, and his Department, before this is passed into law. It is a very important point because we may unjustly commit people to prison. They would have to have a lot of time to prove their innocence in a case like this. While they are still being prescribed in Britain is it a serious matter for our law enforcement officers. Amphetamine, also phenmetrazine, are available in Britain for dieting purposes. There are others in this list—dexamphetamine and a few others—which are available on prescription [970] in Britain for dieting, antiobesity drugs. Under the terms of section 7 of this Bill we can put people in prison for five years or fine them £1,000 for having them. This is a very serious matter, and we should bear it in mind before we proceed with this Bill.

The question arises about doctors and their prescribing habits. The main problem about drug abuse here, the hard drugs, the drugs of physical and psychological dependence, the heroin and opium derivatives—is that a lot of these are available on prescription— morphine, pethidine and diconal. With regard to heroin, morphine and pethidine and diconal from May to December there were 164 addicts attending Jervis Street Hospital. Including the morphine derivatives, diconal plus palfium there were another 73.

A lot of these are available on prescription and for years I have been asking successive Ministers for Health if they would consider issuing a narcotic licence to doctors. This would ensure absolute control over the use of these very dangerous drugs. A narcotic licence properly implemented would ensure that we knew the quantities used. Perhaps, it would be inconvenient for doctors but where we have 267 drug addicts attending Jervis Street for these particular drugs it is necessary to talk in terms of control. A narcotic licence would help to ensure control. I can prescribe pethidine, morphine and diconal as often as I like and I am not accountable to anyone. To me that is wrong because there is a grave danger that if I am not careful about the use of these they could be stolen or I might be tempted to use them. Anything can happen. There is no control over what I prescribe. What happens those prescriptions? Is there any central processing agency available? Is there anybody to say that I have been prescribing too much? Not to my knowledge.

I know doctors who will be very annoyed with me because it will mean imposing serious restrictions on them but we must be very careful when dealing with these drugs. One is playing around with a bomb and must [971] be careful. This is where I would call for curtailment and the bringing in of certain restrictions and certain controls. If a doctor were a little careless about the quantities, the use or the abuse we could have a central agency to ask about this. It should be possible to implement it without inconveniencing the prescribing doctor. It would ensure that the doctor and the public were protected. I want the Minister to consider this. I know it is inconvenient to introduce this, but when one is talking about real addicts, real drug dependence, we have to take precautions. Perhaps the Minister would look into this whole question of barbiturates. There are other drugs of addiction.

I will mention some which may go unknown again, prescribable drugs milton, or eqanil, which is a meprobamate drug of addiction. We are inclined to forget about this point. People can get them from a friendly chemist and before long they find themselves drugged. There have been five cases in six months of drug addiction due to eqanil or milton or meprobamate, its generic name. We have to look at this question and say: “What are these drugs of addiction?” Let us not, immediately we think of drug addiction think of marijuana, reefers and joints. This is where we have our priorities wrong. We are not looking at the whole problem in proper perspective.

The Minister has provided for a situation where the doctor may be found to be abusing his rights as a prescriber of drugs but there is no provision in this Bill clearly defined about how it will be known that a doctor is prescribing excessively. If a doctor prescribes morphine and opium derivative drugs for use in his practice how are we to know about it? There is no narcotic number, or narcotic licence. We do not know. It is only if he orders these drugs for a patient that we know if he is abusing it or not. There is need to protect a man who may be accused wrongly, or where there is the element of doubt the man must be protected adequately because his whole profession is at [972] stake. You must make sure that you do not destroy his practice because overnight if an accusation is made and it appears in the papers his practice is gone because he is discredited in the eyes of the public.

A doctor invariably is a man of good standing and the explanation for his over-prescribing may not be understood. There might be some reason for it. I hope any investigation will take place discreetly before any positive action is taken, or any announcement to that effect is made. It would give him an opportunity again, in secrecy to disclose the reason why he was prompted to prescribe injudiciously or too often. I hope he will have the right to continue his practice without being discredited. This situation could be disastrous because his whole livelihood could be at stake.

I know there is an appeal to the High Court but the publicity attendant on this can be very damaging. I would like to ensure that we have provision for this discretion. If he is guilty he should be punished and deprived of his right to prescribe these drugs. We might talk in terms of a narcotic licence which could be withdrawn.

There is the question of peddlers which Deputy Haughey referred to. He mentioned that you have two types, the addict and the commercial peddlers. The addict often does it to get some money so that he can get his own supply of drugs. We must exercise discretion. We must be sympatheic with him. It is a case of survival for him. He is fighting for survival and he will resort to drug peddling in order to do so. We should bear this fact in mind.

Then you have the man who just exploits the whole situation for monetary gain who is completely unscrupulous. I have seen many victims of these people. One person—the mother luckily enough—was able to identify this particular person from the Killiney area when he came to the house in a large car. He arrived with a supply for the victim plus a supply to sell to others, for which he would get a bonus. The mother, luckily, got the number of the car and this villian [973] was brought to justice. The people we must have no mercy for are those who will not resort to drugs themselves but who exploit these poor victims and are merely in it for commercial gain. I would not like to confuse the two. I would like to distinguish between the addict who peddles drugs to get a supply for survival and the other person who is in it for gain. We must differentiate between the two of them.

I am concerned about the wide powers that are given to the gardaí in matters such as this. It is a serious matter to give the garda power to search. I am not bringing up anything because this was referred to by Deputy Haughey. He expressed reservations about it. I support him and I would hope we can ensure that this power is not abused by the gardaí. It could be easily abused by them. We should examine it in further detail. We want to ensure that we stamp out the menace of drug abuse but we also should ensure that we do not give the Garda these wide ranging very dangerous powers that are anathema to us in a democratic society. I do not know how we can ensure this. We must give them power but we must ensure that it cannot be abused by them. I feel very strongly about this and hope that we can protect the freedom of an individual in such a situation.

The Garda Drug Squad is an excellent one. The sergeant in charge is very sympathetic and understanding. I never had the pleasure of meeting him but I know his work. Having seen victims of drug abuse and knowing how helpful he has been I could not pay tribute enough to that man because he has done magnificent work. Those cases which appear in court are the final resort with him. He was helped these people. He is a social worker more than a Garda sergeant. I do not know if he has been promoted but it is a year since I last knew about his work. The drug abusers will all testify to his tremendous work, his understanding and sympathy, discretion when he goes into a household. To be able to disclose discreetly to a parent that a child is a drug addict is [974] a talent. This man has shown great concern for these people. I hope we can get him to train others in the same line of approach with drug addicts. That kind of attitude in a drug squad will do an awful lot to eradicate the drug abuse without bringing to bear the heavy forces of the law. It is only right I should pay tribute to a man who spends nearly every waking hour helping these people. I hope that the drug squad force is expanded. They understand the approach to cases like this.

It is a traumatic experience to a parent to learn that a son or a daughter is a drug addict. It is surprising how the realisation is brought home to them. I called to one house where the daughter had collapsed. It was only by accident I saw the burnt match where she had injected the morphine into herself. She was a 15 year old girl. When I told her mother she was stunned to think it could happen. She knew nothing about it.

There is this generation gap where you get the parents not understanding and not appreciating what can happen or how the young people feel. Then it becomes a traumatic experience for the parents.

LSD is perhaps the most dangerous because there is no way of knowing how they have it. It comes in such tiny amounts that it might be on a piece of blotting paper. It is only when they have a bad trip, when something develops, that the whole thing comes to light. I hope we can get some of the people, who have been enticed to buy LSD tablets in the various forms in which it is made up, to denounce the people who are pushing it.

Unfortunately it is very easily made and the raw materials are readily available. Although the original discoverers and manufacturers in Switzerland have discontinued its use completely it is so easily made that it could be made in any make-shift laboratory. We have it freely available in this country. It is being sold in O'Connell Street and many passersby have been offered it. This is a very dangerous drug. There have been some [975] terrible mental breakdowns as a result of it. Although we have not had any case here of suicide from it we have had other reports testifying that people have jumped out windows under the influence of this drug, imagining that they are all-powerful. It has given rise to these imaginations of all-powerfulness. It is a dangerous drug and is freely available here. From the figures available to me I am surprised to see how common is the use of LSD. It confirms what I had thought—that one can buy a tablet for 50p.

The most unfortunate aspect of this is that the drug is experimented with by 13 and 14 year old youngsters who do not understand the nature of it and how it acts. They can be badly misled and they can have a very serious trip with it. It can produce a freak psychosis. Many of the users of this drug have had to be admitted to mental hospitals. Although not proved beyond doubt there is tremendous supportive evidence that it can damage the chromosomes in the body. In a situation like that we must do everything possible to stamp out that abuse and the availability of that drug.

Perhaps the Minister would use his influence with the manufacturers of methaqualone in order to ascertain whether this drug has a valid place in the pharmacopoeia, I do not think it has. There are much more effective drugs as aids to the insomniac. Knowing that this can be abused so much, that it is a drug of addiction I wonder is there justification for its continued promotion and availability on the Irish market. This is a situation where there must be certain responsibility on the part of drug manufacturers. If a drug produces side effects or if it is a drug of addiction, these factors far outweigh any advantages, and while there are effective and useful alternatives I should think a drug company might act responsibly by saying they would not continue with the availability or promotion of any such drug. In my view, methaqualone does not warrant its prescribing by doctors or its promotion and availability [976] by the drug company concerned. I should hope that they might bear in mind what I have said.

There is a question and I come to it again because it relates to a section in the Bill. There were 56 cases of LSD drug addicts attending Jervis Street Hospital during a period of six months. This is a considerable number of addicts. These are people who are taking this drug regularly. Knowing the dangers and the consequences of it, and knowing that these people can suffer total mental breakdown, I should hope that we might concentrate on some way of eradicating the availability of this drug.

Then there are the poly abusers, the people who abuse a combination of all these drugs. There were 174 such cases attending Jervis Street in a six-month period. So far as these people are concerned, it is like Russian Roulette. They throw them all back to see what effect they have.

However, we should not become too emotional about the whole problem of drug abuse. Very often the adoption of scare tactics to too great a degree has the opposite effect to what is intended. The enlightened approach is to say to parents that if a child is found to be a drug abuser, while he may be sentenced, there is provision for treatment. I would not have minded if the Bill had been delayed another year so long as something like this were incorporated in it. A little more than a year ago I had occasion to remark to the Minister that a parent had come to me about her child who was in Mountjoy but who was getting no treatment for his drug problem. This seemed very sad to me. It is not enough to put those people away. There is also the question of the stigma involved when one is sent to prison. This treatment to me is the most important matter. In this respect we are much more farseeing than our neighbours. I should hope that the Minister would go one step further to ensure that the facilities and the treatment centres are available to help these people. If we do that we can be proud of having brought in a Bill that will help these people.

[977] Perhaps the Minister would consult with his colleague, the Minister for Post and Telegraphs, about the possibility of televising drug education programmes, with which might be included, also, programmes on the dangers of the abuse of alcohol. There should be programmes aimed at parents, too. What I have in mind are properly researched, objective but not over-emotional programmes. In this way we might do a lot more in terms of eliminating drug abuse from our society than we could do by way of legislative measures. It would be worthwhile, too, to have drug educational programmes in our schools, but we would have to be careful not to stimulate curiosity. Much would depend on the age group one was planning to talk to. If one stimulates the pupils' curiosity too much they will be thinking in terms of drugs.

I do not know whether the Health Education Bureau which was established by the Minister will be looking into this aspect of it. Health education, to my way of thinking, should incorporate such measures as discussing with young people the question of a proper healthy approach to life.

Drugs are extraneous things which, if introduced into the body, have their own side effects. We should use them as little as possible. The Health Education Bureau serves a very useful purpose in discussing matters such as this and in arranging for programmes both for parents and for the people in school on a proper healthy enlightened attitude to life and to their bodies and minds. This is important. If we do this we will get rid of this conditioning that has gone on and is continuously going on, making people think more and more in terms of drugs. Future generations will be entirely dependent on drugs.

Debate adjourned.