Dáil Éireann - Volume 298 - 30 March, 1977

Misuse of Drugs Bill, 1973: Report Stage.

An Ceann Comhairle: Amendments Nos. 1 and 9 seem to be related. I suggest we debate amendments Nos. 1 and 9 together, with separate decisions if required.

Minister for Health (Mr. Corish): I move amendment No. 1:

In page 3, to delete lines 26 to 46 and in page 4, to delete lines 1 to 15.

Deputies on the Special Committee will remember that we abolished the three categories of controlled drugs and replaced them with a single list in the Schedule. It was not possible to do this at that stage because the particular sections I propose to amend now had been accepted by the Special Committee. In effect, amendments Nos. 1 and 9 mean that all references to categories 1, 2 and 3 are taken out and we have only one category now. This was decided in amendments on section 27 when we were discussing penalties.

Mr. Haughey: I accept this amendment on behalf of the Opposition. Perhaps it might be as well to say at this stage that to a large extent our work on the Report Stage will be of a [685] mechanical nature because this Bill was gone through in very great detail in the Special Committee and argued about very cogently from different points of view by different Members. The Minister's amendments represent the outcome of that work and improvements in the legislation which represent a consensus of the Special Committee. This amendment is typical of that situation. It gives effect to the decision of the Minister and accepted by the committee that the different categories be abolished and that control be exercised in a completely different manner, that is, by simply having one list of harmful drugs. Therefore, I accept this amendment.

Amendment agreed to.

An Ceann Comhairle: As amendments Nos. 2 and 22 seem to be related, I suggest we take them together.

Mr. Haughey: Very well. I move amendment No. 2:

In page 4, line 31, after “smoking” to insert “or consumption or injection”.

The purpose of this amendment will be clear to the House. It is a repeat of an amendment I put down in the Special Committee. It seemed to me to be necessary to elaborate a little on the definition of “opium”. As the House will see, “prepared opium” is defined in the definition section as follows:

“prepared opium” means opium prepared for smoking and includes dross and any other residues remaining after opium has been smoked;

At the Special Committee we on this side of the House argued that we thought it would be necessary to insert after “smoking” the words “or consumption or injection”. The definition would then read:

“prepared opium” means opium prepared for smoking or consumption or injection and includes dross and any other residues remaining after opium has been smoked;

It has been suggested to us that opium can be prepared for consumption in ways other than smoking, and it would [686] be desirable to cover these in the definition. It is in continuing to uphold that view, which the Minister did not succeed in persuading us against, that we are now putting down this amendment to the definition of “prepared opium”.

Mr. Corish: This was debated at length in the Special Committee and deals purely with opium. Raw opium can be processed by two methods, for medicinal purposes or what is called prepared opium for smoking. Medicinal opium is defined in the Schedule, as the Deputy will recognise, and it is not an issue here. Prepared opium is a drug of abuse and is normally smoked. It can also be orally consumed or even injected as the Deputy said. In order to avoid giving a lengthy definition of prepared opium, including a description of the process by which it is made, legislation in most countries defines prepared opium simply as opium prepared for smoking. This is the internationally accepted definition of opium and drug abuse.

I see clearly what Deputy Haughey wishes in his amendment that is that prepared opium can not only be smoked but it can be consumed or injected. Needless to remark I agree with this and we want to prevent the consumption or injection of opium. I believe this is covered in section 16 (1) (a) and is further strengthened by section 16 (1) (b), which relates to amendment No. 22. I ask Deputy Haughey to accept that section 16 is adequate to cover his point. If we amended the definition of prepared opium to cover consumption or injection, as suggested by this amendment, we would be prohibiting the use of opium in any form, including medicinal opium, under section 16.

I am at one with the Deputy in what he wants to achieve but it would make it impossible in respect of opium treated for medicinal purposes. As I said in reference to section 16, I believe it is covered here where it says:

A person shall not—

(a) smoke or otherwise use prepared opium,

[687] With my amendment section 16 (1) (b) reads:

A person shall not——

(b) frequent a place used for the purpose of smoking or otherwise using prepared opium, or

(c) have in his possession—

and so on. I believe the Deputy's intention is met by that section, including the fact that if we include in the definition for “prepared opium” what Deputy Haughey wants, it would make it impossible to use opium for medical purposes.

Mr. Haughey: Naturally I do not want to interfere with the legitimate and official use of opium and, while I am not entirely convinced about the way of doing it, I recognise that the new section 16, taken as a whole, is pretty comprehensive and on that basis I am, therefore, prepared to withdraw my amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Mr. Corish: I move amendment No. 3:

In page 4, between lines 36 and 37, to insert the following:

“ ‘registered dentist’ means a person registered in the register established under the Dentists Act, 1928;

‘registered dispensing chemist and druggist’ means a person registered in the register of dispensing chemists and druggists established under the Pharmacy Act, 1951;

‘registered druggist’ means a person registered in the register of registered druggists in Ireland established under the Pharmacy Act (Ireland), 1875, Amendment Act, 1890;

‘registered medical practitioner’ means a person registered in the register established under the Medical Practitioners Act, 1927;

‘registered pharmaceutical chemist’ means a person registered in the register of pharmaceutical chemists for Ireland established under the Pharmacy Act (Ireland), 1875;

[688] ‘registered veterinary surgeon’ means a person registered in the register established under the Veterinary Surgeons Act, 1931;”

Deputy Haughey will recall that during the Committee Stage debate he raised the point that in the case of doctors, dentists and veterinary surgeons the use of the phrase “registered” was not sufficiently explicit and there was need to link registration with the appropriate registration authority. I fully accepted the point the Deputy made which is, of course, also applied to pharmacists and the purpose of this amendment is simply to give effect to the consensus reached in the Special Committee.

Amendment agreed to.

Mr. Corish: I move amendment No. 4:

In page 4, lines 41 and 42, to delete “(within the meaning of either of those sections)”.

This is purely a drafting amendment and it makes no alteration in the substance of the Bill as agreed in the Special Committee. The general definition of practitioner is included in section 1 by the Committee Stage amendment and there is, therefore, no need to retain the words “(within the meaning of either of those sections)” as we have already defined “practitioner”.

Amendment agreed to.

An Ceann Comhairle: Amendments No. 5 and No. 6 are related and I suggest they be debated together.

Mr. Corish: I move amendment No.5:

In page 4, between lines 42 and 43, to insert the following definition:

“ ‘special direction’ has the meaning assigned to it by section 7 (2) of this Act;”.

These are again drafting amendments to improve the convenience of reference to the Bill in regard to “special direction” and “temporary direction”.

Amendment agreed to.

[689] Mr. Corish: I move amendment No. 6:

In page 4, between lines 43 and 44, to insert the following definition:

“ ‘temporary direction’ has the meaning assigned to it by section 9 (2) of this Act;”.

Amendment agreed to.

An Ceann Comhairle: Amendment No. 7 in the name of the Minister, and amendment No. 8 in the name of Deputy Haughey is an alternative to the Minister's amendment and so the amendments may be discussed together.

Mr. Corish: I move amendment No. 7:

In page 4, line 46, to delete “or other thing” and substitute “ , pipe, utensil or document”.

I gave an undertaking at the Special Committee to Deputy Haughey that I would re-examine the section with particular reference to the use of the phrase “or other thing” which he described as a very vague sort of phrase. As I explained then, the phrase was inserted for the sake of tidiness and economy in the use of words and was intended to cover articles other than drugs, the possession of which would, in certain circumstances, be an offence under the Bill. Having considered Deputy Haughey's argument against the vagueness of the phrase I found myself inclined to agree with him and the amendment now proposes to add specific items to the section.

Mr. Haughey: We appreciate the proposal by the Minister to make this amendment so that the first line of subsection (2) will now read: “For the purpose of this Act any controlled drug, pipe, utensil or document” and so on. We discussed this at some length in the Special Committee and there was general agreement that the wording in the Bill was altogether too wide and too sweeping. The form of words the Minister now proposes meets the situation. The subsection is designed to help out the whole approach to the control of the [690] possession of drugs more effectively. The problem is how are we to ensure the legislation is effective and the Garda and others concerned can effectively implement control while at the same time not wishing to interfere unduly or unnecessarily with the rights and freedom of the individual. It is the sort of dilemma which confronts us right through and it is quite legitimate to argue very strongly on both sides. It is quite legitimate to argue for the preservation of the maximum amount of freedom and the minimum of interference by the authorities in the ordinary daily lives of ordinary people.

On the other hand, it is equally legitimate to argue that we have a situation which must be dealt with and, if it is to be dealt with effectively, this legislation must have some teeth. Subsection (2) as amended will be regarded as acceptable by most reasonable people. It will still be an offence to have a controlled drug, pipe, utensil or document and these are the sort of things with which the legislation deals throughout. In making this amendment the Minister has met the situation reasonably and I accept the Minister's amendment and withdraw my amendment No.8.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment No. 8 not moved.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Amendment No. 9 was dealt with with amendment No. 1.

Mr. Corish: I move amendment No. 9:

In page 5, to delete lines 10 to 31 and substitute “purposes of this Act and so long as an order under this subsection is in force, this Act shall have effect as regards any substance, product or preparation specified in the order as if the substance, product or preparation were specified in the said Schedule.”.

Amendment agreed to.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Amendments Nos. 10 and 11 can be discussed together by agreement.

[691] Mr. Corish: I move amendment No. 10:

In page 5, line 38, to insert “by order” before “amend”.

These are again drafting amendments to make it clear that where the Government or the Minister changes an order that change must be made by another order. Subsection (5) says that the Government may by order revoke an order. If the Government make an order adding a drug or deleting a drug an order must be made to that effect. The section as it stands just says the Government may amend or revoke. It will need an order in future.

Amendment agreed to.

Mr. Corish: I move amendment No. 11:

In page 5, line 51, to insert “by order” before “amend”.

Amendment agreed to.

Mr. Haughey: I move amendment No. 12:

In page 5, line 53, to delete “may” and substitute “shall after consultation with the appropriate registration authority”.

We adverted at some length to this matter in the Special Committee. Section 4 is a very important section. It deals with the making of regulations by the Minister in respect of a very important aspect of this Bill. The section as it stands states:

(1) The Minister may make regulations enabling any person, or persons of a prescribed class or description, in prescribed circumstances or for prescribed purposes, to possess a controlled drug subject to such conditions (if any), or subject to and in accordance with such licence, as may be prescribed.

(2) Subject to section 13 of this Act, the Minister shall exercise his power to make regulations under this section so as to secure that it is not unlawful under this Act for a practitioner or pharmacist to have a controlled drug in his possession for the purpose of his profession or business. [692] (3) It shall be lawful for any person, or a person of a class or description specified in regulations under this section, to have in his possession in prescribed circumstances or for prescribed purposes, as may be appropriate, a controlled drug specified therein, provided that any conditions specified in the regulations or attached to a licence granted under this Act and applicable in the particular case are complied with by him.

The approach of the Bill is to make it an offence to have controlled drugs in one's possession. This section is necessary to make sure that people who legitimately have controlled drugs in their possession will not be liable for penalties under the Bill. It is a sensible way of dealing with the situation to make possession generally an offence and then to exempt those who should be exempted by Ministerial regulations.

The regulations will also be very important. It is necessary that they are appropriate to the circumstances and that all those classes of people who will be exempted from the Bill will be correctly ascertained, the circumstances in which they are exempted and so on. This will call for specialised knowledge of the circumstances and, in particular, of professional practices. The Minister, statutorily, makes the regulations but the people drawing them up for his signature will have to be accurately and comprehensively informed about the situation from the point of view of ensuring that all those who should be excluded are excluded and that the circumstances in which they are excluded are accurately described. They will also have to ensure that the regulations will not inadvertently permit somebody into the exclusion circle who should not be in it. It is right, from every point of view, that the regulations be accurately drawn up and that they be drawn up on the basis of the full knowledge of the circumstances prevailing.

The Minister, in making the regulations, should consult the authorities and bodies who would be in [693] a position to state clearly who should be included and who should not and in what circumstances. I want to make it mandatory on the Minister to make regulations and also to make it mandatory on him in making the regulations to consult with the appropriate registration authorities. Those authorities are those which we have, by amendment No. 3 written into the Bill, the registration authorities for dentists, dispensing chemists and druggists, medical practitioners, pharmaceutical chemists and veterinary surgeons. It is very desirable that those bodies should be consulted about the making of the regulations.

The Minister may reply that, of course, in the normal course of events the Department would have these consultations and that they would consult the authorities concerned. If that is the case, it is as well to write it out clearly and definitely in the Bill that consultation with these appropriate registration authorities shall take place and that it shall not be left to the Minister and the Department to decide when they should and should not consult.

My amendment seeks to change the section from giving the Minister the discretion whether or not to make regulations. The wording of the section at present is that the Minister may make regulations, whereas the effect of my amendment will be to compel him to make the regulations. The wording in my amendment is “shall” and in the section it is “may”. My amendment stipulates that the Minister shall consult with the appropriate authorities before he makes the regulations because the livelihood of those different people and the carrying out of their duties will be affected by those regulations. It is only fair that those authorities, who are responsible for them and to whom they are responsible should be consulted in the way I suggest in the amendment.

Mr. Corish: The effect of the Deputy's amendment is twofold. He suggests, firstly, that we should make it obligatory on the Minister to make regulations specifying the class of persons [694] who are not acting unlawfully when they have drugs in their possession. Secondly, he wants to require the Minister to consult with, in the words of the amendment, “the appropriate registration authority” before making the regulation. I would like to take these two points separately.

I do not believe the first is necessary. It would be too restrictive. I will admit that as far as subsection (1) on its own is concerned, it could mean that the Minister need not exercise his discretion at all to make the regulations, and this would make the prohibition on possession in section 3 absolute, that is, that no person could have a controlled drug in his possession in any circumstances. However, the subsection does not stand on its own. It is qualified by subsection (2) which, in respect of practitioners and pharmacists, obliges the Minister to make it lawful for these practitioners and pharmacists to have drugs in their possession for the purpose of practising their profession. It is essential that they should have these drugs in their possession and on a regular basis. There are others who may need to handle controlled drugs in certain circumstances, but I think that it would be unwise to oblige the Minister to make regulations in regard to them and that he must be left the discretion of deciding what persons should be covered.

I think I made it clear in the Special Committee that in relation to consultation the regulations to be made under section 4 would be very general in scope, that they would apply to a wide category of people such as gardaí, customs officers, licensed traders, those who would be engaged in transport, carriers, messenger boys, a whole variety of people to whom it would be justified to give a licence. These people to whom I have referred would not be any special concern of professional registration bodies and it would be inappropriate to seek the view, say, of the Medical Registration Council on provisions which do not concern doctors.

The Minister will have to consult a large number of bodies about regulations under the section and it would [695] be very unwise not to listen to any views they would have to offer as to whether the interests of their members are being adequately protected. On Committee Stage I said I would consider introducing into this section a general provision requiring the Minister to have consultation before making regulations. This has been discussed with the parliamentary draftsman, but because of the wide and varied interests which might be involved on different occasions in making regulations many provisions of the Bill on consultation would have to be in the most general terms, and I would see no advantage in adding such a provision to the section. I would suggest we leave it to the good sense of the Minister for Health to consult all interests involved before making the regulations.

That would, of course include the professional bodies who are covered under subsection (2) and those still undetermined; we have a broad idea of the type of person who would be concerned under subsection (3). Therefore, the Minister must make regulations in respect of practitioners and pharmacists but in respect of other people who would not be practitioners or professional people, it would be at the discretion of the Minister because in contemplating it now, one might be able to say what type of person would be involved, but there are many others who might also be involved, and I gave some examples of those a few minutes ago. All in all, I think the matter is fairly well covered. If subsection (1) was to stand on its own, Deputy Haughey's amendment would be valid, but it is qualified by subsection (2) to the utmost extent and under subsection (3) to an extent as well.

Mr. Briscoe: Sometimes when we are arguing over whether to put “shall” instead of “may” I wonder if we are engaging in semantics.

Mr. Corish: It has been going on since the First Dáil.

Mr. Briscoe: That is what democracy is all about, I suppose. We have [696] sat through arduous meetings of this committee in pursuing certain suggestions. I have listened very carefully to the Minister and even though he states that subsequent sections of the Bill where the word “shall” is used, more or less take care of any problem about not having “shall” in line 1 of section 4, I cannot see, at this moment anyway, why the Minister cannot accept that as an amendment, the word “shall” after “consultation with the appropriate registration authority” since in subsequent paragraphs he has the word the Minister “shall” exercise his power. Why not exercise it all the way through? The Minister is right that we can rely on the Minister's good sense to consult with the appropriate authorities. If he agrees with this in principle and that it would be a foolish Minister who would not consult with the appropriate authorities, why not include it in the Bill? You might get some Minister who might not be sensible—I will not use the words “mad doctor” —or somebody who considered he was the authority, who thought he knew it all and would not consult. I would like to see a safeguard built in that it should be mandatory for the Minister to consult with appropriate authorities.

Mr. Corish: There would be no difficulty in respect of practitioners and pharmacists but the amendment says: “shall after consultation with the appropriate registration authority”.

Mr. Haughey: “Registration authority” is defined in the definition section.

Mr. Corish: There are many other persons who work in a certain capacity but they would not have registration authority.

Mr. Haughey: They would not have to be consulted.

Mr. Corish: It would be more necessary that they would be con-consulted.

Mr. Haughey: Unfortunately we are fairly constrained on the Report Stage and I suppose I am concluding now. [697] However, I accept that discipline. He who would command must first learn to obey, a Roman dictum.

Mr. Corish: Still ambitious.

Mr. Haughey: The amendment is not as wide as the Minister seems to think it is, because the amendment talks about a registration authority. The amendment says that “the regulations shall be made after consultation with the appropriate registration authority”. “Registration authority” is defined in the definition section, page 4, lines 37 to 39:

“registration authority” means such one of the following as the context requires namely, the Dental Board, the Medical Registration Council and the Veterinary Council.

Therefore the amendment would only compel the Minister to consult with one of that very limited number of specific bodies. In replying the Minister more or less made my argument for me because he admitted that the innate revelation seems to be that the Minister for Health would, of course, consult. I would not expect that the Minister should have to consult about a nondescript category of people or some person or category that he could not define. All I am asking in the amendment is that where this specific number of professional bodies are concerned or where the regulations are to apply to these members of these professional bodies, he would consult these professional bodies. I think that is ensured by the wording. Taking the new section 4 in conjunction with the definition section, it is clear that the need or compulsion to consult would apply only where the Minister was making regulations affecting these professions and he would have to consult only three bodies. From that point of view I would have thought that the inclusion of these words in section 4 (1) would have been desirable.

It is not a good idea to legislate on the basis of: “Well, do not worry about it. You know very well that a good, sensible Minister would do such and such.” If we proceed on that basis we need not legislate at all. We could say: “Well, Ministers are responsible people and if by some mischance or [698] some quirk of the electoral system they turn out to be irresponsible people there is a good, wise body of professional civil servants there to make sure that they do not behave irresponsibly.” That is not good enough. We should not accept that situation. We should legislate to ensure, whether a Minister is responsible or irresponsible, and whether the cadre of civil servants in the Department are reasonable people or autocratic, dictatorial, democratic or co-operative, whatever they may be, that the legislation lays down how they behave. I have always distrusted the argument at this stage of a Bill when the Minister, all sweet reasonableness and very often a decent man, appeals to the House and says: “Oh, look, let me get my Bill through. You know very well that this will work out all right, everybody is going to be sensible and there is no need to bring the thing down to the last detail in the legislation.”

That is not the right way to go about our business. We should legislate for the situation in full and make sure that if the Minister is to do something the legislation says that he shall do it and how he shall do it and in so far as it is an important issue it will not be left to his goodwill or his feeling of co-operation or otherwise. The Minister knows that we have had for some reason or other a tradition of very strong-minded people in the Department of Health in the past, people who from time to time came to have uneasy relations with the different professions.

It is probably inevitable in the normal way that Ministers from time to time would come into conflict with professional bodies on different issues and the relationships might not always be harmonious and smooth and completely satisfactory. The Minister at any time might feel perfectly entitled not to consult a particular professional body about any matter. There have been times in the past when relations between the occupants of the ministerial chair and the Department of Health were strained. In such a situation a temptation to the Minister to ignore a particular professional body might prevail. That cannot happen if the matter is dealt with specifically as I am suggesting it should be in the section. [699] With that final appeal to the Minister and cribbed, cabined, confined or whatever I am by the Report Stage, I leave it at that.

Mr. Briscoe: I did not understand the Minister when he was speaking. May I ask him——

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: I take it the Deputy is putting a question.

Mr. Briscoe: I am putting a question. He explained that by substituting “shall” for “may” he will create a problem where, say, delivery boys were delivering. I was not able to follow the logic. I wonder would it be too much to ask him again why substituting the word “shall” for “may” will create a problem in relation to deliveries. Did I hear the Minister correctly?

Mr. Corish: The Minister for Health would have to have a certain amount of discretion as to who would be the appropriate person, group or association to be consulted in respect of those people. It would be simple in respect of a practitioner or pharmacists. There is nothing sinister in this. There would be a variety of people apart from the practitioners who would be handling these controlled drugs.

Mr. Haughey: Does the Minister agree that my amendment is restricted to just the three bodies? I do refer in my amendment to the registration authority and the registration authority is defined in the definition section.

Mr. Corish: I indicated that these bodies would be consulted and in respect of others who are not registered authorities I would try to identify the association, union or whatever might be of which the person was a member in order to provide for regulations.

Amendment declared lost.

Mr. Haughey: I move amendment No. 13:

In page 6, between lines 22 and 23, to insert :—

“(v) the showing in public or the broadcasting of any feature film or [700] play in connection with controlled drugs.”

I am glad to have this opportunity of putting this proposal forward again in the context of this legislation. It speaks for itself. It is something that found a great deal of favour with the Special Committee. In section 5 we deal with the entitlement of the Minister about regulations governing a whole variety of matters in regard to preventing the misuse of controlled drugs. Section 5 is a very important section. From a practical point of view it will be to a large extent the section which will enable the whole machinery to operate. It gives the Minister power to make regulations governing all sorts of things. We went through these in detail in the Special Committee and we made various suggestions in regard to them. This is one of the suggestions which this side of the House are very keen on. It would be a very useful addition to the number of matters about which the Minister can make recommendations. I draw the attention of the House to subsection (1) of section 5 which says:

For the purpose of preventing the misuse of controlled drugs, the Minister may make regulations:—

(a) prohibiting absolutely, or permitting subject to such conditions or exceptions as may be specified in the regulations, or subject to any licence, permit or other form of authority as may be so specified—

(i) the manufacture, production or preparation of controlled drugs,

(ii) the importation or exportation of controlled drugs,

(iii) the supply, the offering to supply or the distribution of controlled drugs,

(iv) the tranportation of controlled drugs,

They are all good sound ideas, it is very desirable that the Minister should have the power to govern these matters by way of regulation. The Minister can prohibit absolutely, or permit subject to conditions or subject to licence, these various functions. I want to add another function to this [701] list. After (iv), “the transportation of controlled drugs”, I would like to add “the showing in public or the broadcasting of any feature, film of play in connection with controlled drugs”. My reasons for that are obvious. The situation in regard to the use of drugs in our community is sensitive. We are dealing with a delicate area, and it is necessary that the authorities should have every legitimate means available to them to monitor control and govern the situation. Again, we come up against the whole crux of how much power should they get, how much power should we give the authorities to enable them to deal with this matter? This is a function which we can give to the Minister.

Section 5 is an enabling section, it does not say the Minister must not make regulations, but it gives him authority if he wishes to make regulations governing certain matters. We know that in the misuse of drugs, films, plays and literature can play a very important part. It is possible to glamorise the drug culture in films and plays and it is quite possible to harm inadvertently in regard to the drug situation by means of plays and films. One would like to think that if there are malicious people with commercial interests, pedlars, pushers and anybody of that sort, who would seek to use films, plays or broadcasts to promote and glamorise the taking of harmful drugs, the Minister for Health would have power to do something about it. None of us likes censorship, but I am much more prepared to give the Minister for Health the powers of censorship than the Minister for Justice, the Minister for Defence or the Taoiseach. I am not talking about them personally but their office. From my point of view a very limited innocuous form of censorship, administered by the Minister for Health in the interests of health, is an entirely different matter from the literary political censorship about which people rightly complain. I am not in favour of censorship as such. The general trend in public opinion is away from censorship and towards as much freedom of discussion as possible in many different areas. But this is something where we [702] are confronted with a social evil, with a problem in the community in relation to drug taking. We need to control the misuse of drugs. It is a bit unreal to have to contemplate a situation where we are giving fairly draconian powers to the Garda, in an attempt to make this legislation effective, and at the same time, we would have to visualise plays and films being broadcast, which could be more harmful than one individual pusher, but which we cannot do anything about. My amendment is limited. It confines the power of the Minister to making regulations to govern the showing or broadcasting in public of any feature, film, or play in connection with controlled drugs. These words are fairly carefully chosen and the amendment is carefully farmed to confine the power to make regulations to what would be absolutely necessary, and no more.

We went into this at some length in the Special Committee and there were divided views. I have thought on it since and have read the debates and having looked at what we said on this matter, I still think it is worth while putting in this additional power. I would like to give the Minister the power to make these sort of regulations. If the Minister does not want to make them or if he feels they are unnecessary, he does not have to make them but I would not like to have a situation where public conscience and what we all want in this situation could be openly flouted and detrimental deleterious material broadcast by means of features, plays and films in regard to drugs. In the interests of the drugs situation, I am prepared to accept any opprobrium that might attach to the censorship element involved in this proposal.

Dr. Byrne: In relation to the wording of this amendment, I presume Deputy Haughey refers solely to the illicit promotion of drugs. In many sections educational, preventive films are shown in connection with controlled drugs so that the adverse effects may be brought home to the community or to the audience with a view towards discouraging them from taking the particular preparations. I am sure [703] that Deputy Haughey tabled his amendment with that proviso in mind. It is imperative that those concerned with health continue to broadcast in the media on the dangers of tobacco and alcohol and that some of the side effects of these drugs are made known. The only comment I have to make on the amendment is that it would refer only to the adverse promotion of drugs, whereas debauchery in various forms might be glamourised in the broadcasting of features and films. Indeed, on the multi-channel television networks this element is filtering through with various levels of intensity. Therefore, one would like to see contained in this section power whereby the Minister could control the distribution of various forms of literature that indicate ways of manufacturing certain drugs, particularly LSD. A provision on those lines would be very helpful. We should support any measure that would strengthen the Minister's hand in helping to prevent further spread of drug abuse.

Mr. Briscoe: I am attaching a great deal of importance to this amendment. Unlike my colleague, Deputy Haughey, I am in favour of censorship, albeit limited censorship. I suppose it can be said that we are all in favour of censorship to some extent but that we differ on the question of extent.

During the Special Committee debate I said that on matters of public health we should have control in relation to what is broadcast on our television network. As Deputy Haughey has rightly said, in many cases it is more important that this control be in the hands of the Minister for Health rather than the Minister for Justice. There is censorship in so far as the advertising of cigarettes on television is concerned. It is known that nicotine is a drug that is damaging to health. Frequently we have tabled questions here regarding the introduction of legislation to prevent also the advertising of alcohol on television. Recently, the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs informed me that revenue from this source to RTE amounted to almost £400,000 but I would consider the loss of that revenue to be a small [704] price to pay for the amount of damage to health that might be avoided as a result of withdrawing such advertising.

The amendment is aimed at preventing the glamorisation on television of drug taking. I do not suppose that a producer of a television programme would set out deliberately to glamourise drugs any more than a deliberate attempt would be made by way of a television feature to glamourise violence. Yet, it has been established without doubt that violence as portrayed on television is one of the causes of violence in society. Very often lurid situations or sadism are portrayed in the name of art. This section provides that the Minister may make regulations to prevent the misuse of controlled drugs. It is the word “may” which concerns me. Any Minister for Health should take on himself the power to make regulations regarding the showing in public or the broadcasting of any film, feature or play in connection with the question of drugs. There is an increasing propensity in recent years of shows on television which, perhaps, five or ten years ago, no television network would have dared to show. I am in one of those regions in which it is possible to receive the ITV and BBC programmes and there are many features on those networks that are certainly not suitable for children. However, we would have control over our own network and we must exercise that control particularly when matter of public health are concerned.

The view during the Committee Stage was that an amendment of this nature would not change greatly the Bill before us so even at this late stage I urge the Minister to accept the amendment. It is an amendment that would go a long way towards alleviating the anxieties we have regarding what we consider should be in the Bill. The provision may never have to be invoked but it would be good to have it included. We are living in a world of rapid change but we must make every effort to protect what we consider to be valuable to our way of life. While not saying for a moment that all people associated with the arts are involved in drugs, it is known that [705] many such people are in an environment in which there is a prevalence of drugs. It may be that very often some of these people wish to share with others their sense of guilt and to this end they may encourage others to take drugs. The same happens in the case of the alcoholic who seeks out somebody to drink with. However, I would not wish to be taken as saying that all people connected with show business or with television are involved in drug taking. That profession is as prone as any other profession to drug taking. There are doctors who are drug addicts. That is why I think it is very important that the Minister accept the amendment and recognise the truth of what Deputy Haughey and I are saying.

Mr. Corish: We discussed this matter at great length in the Special Committee and I think it is fair to say, particularly from the record, that there was general unease about the introduction into the Bill of censorship provisions. I shared that uneasiness. It is not that I want to escape my responsibility as Minister for Health but I am more than reluctant, in respect of this amendment, to assume the position as general censor for plays, films, television shows et cetera. I prefer voluntary, worked out practices in areas like this and, on the whole, I believe they will work out much better. As regards films, the film censor has adequate power to deal with the position described by Deputies Haughey and Briscoe. I believe the board have adequate power to delete undesirable references to drug taking or to ban the films entirely.

Deputy Haughey moved a similar amendment on Committee Stage and there was general unease in the Committee about this amendment. I indicated that I would look into the possibility of including in the Bill a provision prohibiting advocacy of controlled drugs. Having looked into it, I do not believe it is necessary because section 21 (1) provides:

A person who attempts to commit an offence under this Act, or who aids, abets, counsels or procures the commission of an offence under this Act, or who solicits or incites any [706] other person to commit an offence under this Act, shall be guilty of an offence.

I believe that is adequate to deal with the situations described by the two Deputies who spoke for the Opposition.

As regards broadcasting, particularly as regards advertising smoking and alcohol, the authorities have a code of ethics which is strictly adhered to and I am confident that there would be, as I suppose there is now, the same code of ethics in respect of controlled drugs. There is no censorship of plays at present but if there was advocacy in a play of the use of controlled drugs those responsible for the production of the play would be caught by section 21 (1). In any case, I believe it would be impossible to devise regulations which would be workable and I think the Deputies opposite recognise that.

While I do not put this forward as the most important argument we have, as Deputy Briscoe said, about three television channels from Britain and I do not know what control there is over the broadcasting of any feature or film in respect of controlled drugs. As regards broadcasting, films and plays, first, those responsible could be charged under section 21 (1). As far as films are concerned, the functions of the Film Censorship Board are well defined and as far as broadcasting and television are concerned, I believe it would be better—it has proved successful so far—to have a code of ethics rather than to introduce regulations under which a Minister for Health would have to be the deciding factor. In practice, I do not know how this would be possible unless one depended on—there is no reason to say they could be depended on—the officials of the Department. Ultimately, if this were passed, responsibility would lie with the Minister for Health.

I fully agree with the opinions expressed by the Deputies who spoke but I believe the amendment is taken care of in section 21 (1).

Mr. Briscoe: May I ask the Minister a question? The Minister mentioned the film censor but he does not have any control over what is shown [707] on television or what is broadcast. Literally, they could show anything on television——

Mr. Corish: But I went on to say that there was a code of ethics agreed on between the Department of Posts and Telegraphs, the radio authorities and the Department of Health regarding advertising of alcohol and smoking which has worked out very successfully.

Mr. Haughey: I fear we are faced today in the House itself with the same sort of disagreements as we had in the Special Committee. What worries my colleagues and myself in this regard is the danger of being forced into a ridiculous situation. We know that there is a community problem regarding the misuse of certain drugs. We know this drug culture represents a very serious and potentially tragic threat to our population, particularly our young people, and we must do what we can to legislate wisely for this situation.

Censorship is a very complicated question. I do not think anybody has ever really come up with a totally satisfactory philosophical approach to it in a modern community and I would not purport to have the wisdom necessary to propound any solution to the essentially difficult matter of censorship. But we do have censorship and, as the Minister points out —again making a case for me in that regard—we have a film censor. We are prepared to have an official of the State exercise censorship in regard to morality, violence and things of that nature.

The Minister is not prepared to consider in principle, I think, censorship in relation to drug taking. That seems to me to be having a peculiar mix of a sense of values. If he is prepared to give the State authority to cut out certain parts of films because they demonstrate some sexual behaviour, surely he should be able to contemplate, at least, the Minister taking action in regard to undesirable films where drugs are concerned.

I am not at all convinced by the Minister's reference to codes of ethics or codes of behaviour in RTE. I [708] am afraid I must refer the Minister to what I said at the Special Committee in that regard:

Mr. Corish: There is censorship in RTE itself.

Mr. Haughey: With due respect, I would not leave any matter of public well-being to the discretion of RTE.

Further on I said:

I should prefer to leave such matters in the hands of the Minister for Health in preference to leaving them in the hands of anyone at Montrose.

Because the people at Montrose have different priorities from those which the Minister for Health has, is it not possible to envisage a situation where a series would be broadcast by RTE, or by somebody else, and the nature of the series would be such that we would all recognise it was undesirable and detrimental in this context? Nevertheless we would have to contemplate the series going on and on without having the capacity to do anything about it. I want to give the Minister the capacity in such a situation to have the authority to do something, to act to prevent the dissemination of detrimental and undesirable material.

The Minister, I hope, realises that in the amendment I put down at the Special Committee the Press were included. Most Members who entered into the discussion at the Special Committee were quite against the idea of having censorship of the Press even in this connection. The Chairman was prepared to go so far as agreeing in principle to some sort of censorship of films and broadcasting. I have left the Press out of my Report Stage amendment. My amendment is now confined to the showing in public or the broadcasting of any feature, film, or play, or publication of any similar matter in connection with controlled drugs.

In this connection I think most of us would be primarily concerned with broadcasting. I do not think you could get the ordinary man in the street to accept that this is something which could be left entirely to the discretion [709] of the people in RTE. Rightly or wrongly, there is a great deal of criticism from time to time in public about what RTE decide to broadcast. There is still very active public opinion in that regard. People take exception to certain material disseminated and broadcast by RTE. I do not think that has any particular effect, but I should not like to have this matter dealt with in that sort of context at all. If we approach this matter from the point of view of health, giving the responsibility to the Minister for Health and confining his powers to matters totally and completely in relation to controlled drugs, that is an entirely different area from the general area of censorship of films and of the Press.

I know there are difficulties in dealing with this from the point of view of giving effect to it but the machinery we are putting at the disposal of the Minister will be flexible. We are giving him the authority to make regulations and he can have a much more con-centrated and direct approach in making a regulation than he could have, perhaps, in something he has to spell out in legislation. I am disappointed the Minister is not prepared to take this latent power. As Deputy Briscoe implied, it is the sort of power which might never be used. Common sense might prevail generally and good sense, and an occasion might never arise when the Minister would feel compelled to intervene in the interests of the welfare of the community. All we would like to ensure is that if such a situation does arise, we will not have the Minister and his Department, and public spirited people, and medical people, sitting back frustrated and impotent because they have no power to do anything about a particularly undesirable piece of glamorisation of drug taking, or drug addiction, or drug culture. That is all we are concerned with.

As I say, in deference to the view expressed at the Committee, I have limited and watered down my amendment very considerably. It is now restricted completely to films and broadcasting. I would have hoped that, having thought the matter over, the [710] Minister might have seen the desirability of providing himself with the power to make regulations. I am very glad Deputy Briscoe made the reference he did to the advertising of tobacco and alcohol on television. I certainly hope the next Fianna Fáil Government will take very positive steps to ensure that the terribly subtle, and persuasive, and seductive advertising of alcohol which now goes on on television will be stopped. In that regard we are being very ambivalent.

I am fully prepared to acknowledge that when I was Minister for Finance I might have been difficult to persuade about the desirability of preventing or banning the advertising of alcohol on television. I would hope I would now take a broader view and that my experience in Opposition has given me the capacity to look at things more in the round than from the narrow departmental viewpoint. When you are in a ministerial office for a while, I am afraid you become institutionalised and you tend to see most things through your departmental eyes. You are inclined to be convinced that your job is the only thing that matters. In that regard the Opposition may have an advantage in that we can see a broader picture.

I hope that when we go back into office we will take a very positive step in regard to the present type of advertising of alcohol on television. I do not know if it would be justifiable in banning the advertising of alcohol completely—perhaps it would —but in any event it should be rigorously controlled. The skilled, seductive and glamorous advertising which we see constantly on television will have to be stopped. We are not being sensible in permitting young people to be exposed constantly to this type of persuasiveness. I realise that stopping people advertising a particular product is a form of censorship but it is one I would be prepared to tolerate. I like to think I am reasonably liberal in outlook and devoted to freedom of opinion but in this connection I see the public need in regard to drugs as being paramount.

[711] The power of films and features on television to influence young people is incalculable. These things can have enormous effect for good or for ill. On the one hand, we are promoting public funds to health education and that is good but is it not silly and ambivalent to be promoting health education, teaching young people how to live their lives properly, while, on the other hand, we are exposing them to detrimental broadcasts and films.

From my own experience of legislation I appreciate that this kind of legislation might be difficult when he had the flexibility of a ministerial regulation at his disposal to deal with the matters we want dealt with without in any way interfering with freedom of expression, artistic freedom and so on. I make a final appeal to the Minister with regard to our proposal in amendment No. 13.

Mr. Briscoe: May I make a point by way of a question to the Minister?

An Ceann Comhairle: Deputy Haughey's speech has concluded the debate on amendment No. 13.

Mr. Briscoe: I wish to emphasise the point that many of the films on television emanate from other countries——

An Ceann Comhairle: It is not in order for the Deputy to make a speech now.

Amendment put and declared lost.

Mr. Haughey: I move amendment No. 14:

In page 6, line 36, after “prescribed” to add

“and without prejudice to the generality of the foregoing requiring that all prescriptions for controlled drugs be in standard form, having an identifiable serial number and counterfoil and supplied by the Minister.”

This amendment is put forward in an attempt to improve the effectiveness of the legislation. We are dealing with section 5 and the power of the Minister to make regulations with regard to various aspects of the control of drugs. We had useful discussions in the [712] Special Committee on the section with which this amendment deals. We talked at length about prescriptions, forged prescriptions, prescriptions getting lost and people using them for illicit purposes. We also referred to persons being able to use existing medical and pharmacist structures to obtain illegal access to controlled drugs. In the Special Committee we were conscious of the need to have tight control over the whole situation covering the distribution of controlled drugs, of the maximum amount of control, restraint and regulation in the distribution area. We did not want unscrupulous people to use prescriptions or to have others using them in order to gain access to controlled drugs to which they were not entitled.

In the Special Committee we put forward the suggestion that there should be a special type of prescription for controlled drugs. We suggested that it should be in standard form, with an identifiable serial number and counterfoil and we said that all prescriptions dealing with controlled drugs should emanate from the Minister. We said that controlled drugs should be dealt with only by means of such special prescription forms authorised by the Minister which could be fully accounted for. We said they should have an identifiable serial number and counterfoil so that any abuse could be traced and brought home to the person concerned. In this way the present undoubted looseness that exists would be eliminated so far as controlled drugs are concerned. Our amendment proposes that while it is not mandatory on the Minister to do so, it gives him statutory authority to make regulations prescribing these types of official prescription forms.

Section 5 gives the Minister wider powers in regard to the distribution process. He is entitled to make regulations:

(b) requiring prescribed documents to be used in a prescribed manner in relation to prescribed transactions concerning controlled drugs and requiring copies of such documents to be furnished to prescribed persons, or to persons of a prescribed class or description,

[713] (c) requiring prescribed precautions to be taken for the purpose of ensuring the safe custody of controlled drugs.

(d) requiring prescribed records to be kept in relation to controlled drugs and regulations under this section may specify the manner in which the records are to be kept and maintained and such regulations may also provide for the furnishing of information relating to such records in such circumstances and in such manner as may be prescribed,

This section gives the Minister very wide powers in the regulating, controlling and dispensing of controlled drugs. It gives him powers to make regulations regarding all sorts of records to be kept and the production of these records. This seemed to us to fit naturally into that general structure.

This is a system to which most members of the Committee were prepared to agree. If the Minister accepted it it was difficult to envisage all the advantages it would have but it would certainly bring the whole system of issuing, distributing and prescribing controlled drugs under very close control. It would isolate these dangerous drugs from the general body of pharmacy activities, set them aside, make sure they were dealt with by everybody in a very special way, so that there would be nothing casual or haphazard about the way they were dealt with.

Pharmacists are very careful people and have very high professional standards. We would all be prepared to rely on their discretion in this area. They have a very fine tradition in serving the public and protecting public health and welfare. In that regard they are probably as reliable and as trustworthy a section of the community as you can get. We feel that this mechanic would be of very great assistance in helping them to maintain those very high standards. It would emphasise the special nature of controlled drugs by having them dealt with only on particular forms, emanating from the Minister and under his control. I recommend the amendment to the House.

[714] Mr. Corish: As far as this argument is concerned, Deputy Haughey and I are not too far apart. We agree that as far as prescribing and issuing drugs are concerned the utmost possible tightening up should be engaged in, particularly for tracing forgeries or altered prescriptions. We should take all precautions to guard against forgeries or altered prescriptions. In the Special Committee I told Deputy Haughey that I had power under the regulations—section 5 (1) (f) —to do what he suggested. At that time I indicated that it would be necessary to consult the medical professional organisations on this matter because of the complications that might arise with the use of different kinds of prescription forms for ordinary or for controlled drugs.

My Department recently had discussions with the medical organisations particularly in relation to the prescription forms used under the general medical service. The points raised at the Special Committee were brought to the attention of the medical organisations and these discussions are still continuing. As far as I know the medical organisations have reservations about the use of the four different kinds of prescription forms which would be needed if the amendment as it stands were to be accepted. I do not look lightly on these reservations, particularly in relation to the practical operation of the general medical service and the arrangements for paying pharmacists under that service. Therefore, I ask the Deputy not to press his amendment on the understanding that as far as practicable this will be done in order to meet the spirit of the Deputy's amendment. As I said, I have power to do this under section 5 (1) (f) and as far as I can, in consultation with the medical profession, I will see that some scheme is worked out to comply with what was suggested here.

If the amendment were to be accepted it would mean that the practitioner would need four prescription pads. For general medical service there would be one for ordinary drugs, one for controlled drugs, and for private or paying patients there would [715] be a pad for ordinary drugs and one for controlled drugs. It was indicated at the Committee that doctors might not take too kindly to this.

Mr. Haughey: Perhaps the Minister would elaborate why there would have to be four different forms.

Mr. Corish: For the general medical service, there must be one form for ordinary drugs and one form for controlled drugs—controlled drugs would be subject to scrutiny—and the same would apply to private patients. In view of the fact that the medical profession have not completed their discussions with my Department and especially in view of the fact that section 5 (1) (f) will enable me to do what Deputy Haughey suggests, I ask him not to press his amendment.

Dr. Gibbons: I want to make a few remarks on the question of prescriptions. I am not aware what the medical organisations offered in detail but it strikes me that prescription forms must be standard for the whole country. Each health board will not have the right to issue their own particular type of prescription form to cover this part of legislation. The other thing that strikes me is that, unlike the present prescription form, it should be in triplicate so that the practitioner will have one for the patient, one to be retained by the chemist and one retained by the medical practitioner. Thirdly, I do not see the necessity for having a different prescription pad for the GMS and another for the private patient. It should be sufficient to have one pad to cover all patients. In that way one would reduce the number of pads by at least one. With regard to the question of identification numbers, numbers do not appear on the present prescription pads but I think a number would be of some importance because it would make the prescription more easily identifiable. The problem of the chemist having to decide what particular form he would submit to the GMS and what one would belong to the private patient, again this could be covered by arranging to have a panel and put the GMS number on the panel for the GMS and just write [716] “private” on it for the private patient. This would indicate to the pharmacist what he should do with the prescription. This should create no difficulty. A decision will have to be made as to how long these prescription pads must be kept. There is a tendency in some places to get rid of them very quickly. In other places they seem to last for years. The Minister should consider fixing some particular time at the end of which the records can be destroyed so that they will not be hanging around ad infinitum.

Dr. Byrne: I believe much of the difficulty with regard to the security of prescriptions could be overcome by the provision of a special stamp. If such a stamp is provided to each registered general practitioner that will obviate the possibility of doctors coming from abroad, who are not eligible to practise here, of doctors here whose practice has been curtailed through other sections of the Bill, issuing prescriptions for controlled drugs. The stamp should issue directly from the Department of Health and that would overcome the rather elaborate and bureaucratic content of this amendment. The Minister might give consideration to that.

Mr. Briscoe: I was just looking at the report of the meeting of the Special Committee on 20th January, 1976. The Minister said negotiations are going on at the moment with the medical profession in regard to this particular suggestion but so far nothing has emerged in the sense of a definite solution. Something concrete should have emerged by now. At the Special Committee Deputy Byrne said he was very much in favour of this amendment. He said at column 89 on that date:

This would be of tremendous advantage if we were able to do it and also if the prescription form has some identification mark of the prescriber and if it were mandatory for the age and sex of the patient to be included. It is high time that a deeper look was taken at the multiplicity of prescription forms available. The law at present does not prohibit a doctor from taking up an envelope and writing his name [717] and address on it and the name and address of the patient nor is there much technical difficulty in the lay person getting forms printed; I have never been asked for my certificate of medical qualification when I go to get prescription pads printed. This is another way in which there could be abuse. I would be in favour of Deputy Haughey's amendment. The wording is very similar to that of the amendment I put down. I would like to see the Minister introducing the thin edge of the wedge here by prescribing standardisation.

That was the Deputy's own practical experience. I am sure Deputy H. Gibbons has had similar experience. This is more important than it might appear to be. Section 5 (1) (d) regulates the issue of drugs. But there is a “may” here. From what Deputy Byrne said in the Special Committee we can assume that the prescribing of drugs is wide open to abuse and if we are serious about controlling the prescribing of drugs, then we must put teeth into this Bill. We have waited a long time for the Bill. It was born when we were in Government. It died when we left office and it was resuscitated. It is in its fifth year, the fourth of this Government's reign, and we are still trying to get it through. We do not want to delay it but we want a Bill of its importance to be capable of implementation. It is very important that there should be clearly identifiable pads because there is big money behind drugs and, when there is big money involved, people will take big risks. We must ensure that every channel of possible abuse is cut off. The Minister should accept the amendment because it is quite specific in what it sets out to do.

Mr. Coogan: I just want to comment briefly on the issue of prescriptions. There are far too many issued. In every house one can see dressing tables festooned with tablets of every kind and prescriptions littering the dressers.

Dr. Gibbons: There are no dressers now. They are all gone.

[718] Mr. Coogan: Drugs are issued to alcoholics. Prescriptions are given out ad lib to get them out of the clinic. A tightening up in the issue of prescriptions is needed. I know cases where ladies produce bottles which should never have been given to them. They are sometimes given to them by people with no authority to issue them. They should be issued only by doctors. Somebody must have paid for all these bottles and tablets. If it was not the unfortunate man of the house, then the State must have paid. There will have to be a tightening up.

Mr. Wyse: Since our discussions at the Special Committee we have all had an opportunity to give further consideration to the different sections of the Bill and now we are trying to make the Bill perfect. I have no doubt that the Minister is aware that perfection was the theme of the discussions at the Special Committee. I strongly recommend him to accept this amendment. I also believe that he should take greater responsibility in many of the sections. I know that he is having discussions with the medical profession on this matter. When we talk about the medical profession we are talking about people who administer and prescribe drugs. The Minister will have to make a decision on this matter. I appeal to him to make the decision now.

Mr. Haughey: The Minister, I am sure, has gathered that my colleagues agree with me about this proposal. It has received more support here this afternoon than any other proposal. I am reinforced in my appeal to the Minister for very strong consideration of this. He has disarmed me somewhat by indicating that he is discussing the situation with the medical profession and that he hopes to come forward with some proposal along the same lines. That is encouraging because we see a great deal of merit in the proposal.

It is particularly interesting for us that the two doctors, who were members of the Special Committee, continue to support this proposal or something along the same lines. We are [719] only asking that the Minister take the power to do this. It seems to us, from an examination of paragraph (f), that it is not specific enough. It does not give the Minister the specific statutory authority to introduce the type of compulsory system we envisage. Paragraph (f) states:

regulating the issue by registered medical practitioners, registered dentists or registered veterinary surgeons of prescriptions for controlled drugs and the supply of controlled drugs on prescription.

On a very superficial reading that does not seem to me to give the Minister power to insist that he alone can issue the particular prescription forms for the control of drugs and that he is entitled under the provisions of this paragraph to insist on the type of scheme we envisage in the amendment.

It is encouraging to find that we are all thinking along the same lines and moving in the same direction. We want to copperfasten the situation. We want to ensure that the form of control through the prescriptions is clear-cut, identifiable and that the Minister will have the very specific power to have this special type of ministerial prescription form for controlled drugs. It is at a late stage in the examination of this Bill. There is not a great deal we can do on Report Stage to push the Minister further along the lines we think he should go. This Stage is largely very much a matter of having a last look at the Bill before it moves to the Seanad. I suppose at this stage, if the Minister is not prepared to accept our amendment, we have got to accept that situation. We urge him to pursue those discussions with the professions with a view to getting a very clearly, indentifiable standard practice initiated.

We are bringing veterinary surgeons within the control of this Bill. They operate in a different sort of milieu from the other professions. They very often work under much more difficult conditions and move around a lot. They work on farms and travel around in their cars a lot and perhaps do not have the same need for office routine as dentists and medical practitioners, [720] who operate in a less mobile manner although some doctors in rural areas also travel a great deal. We hope, because this new regime will apply to doctors, dentists and veterinary surgeons, that the type of prescription, which will be used for control of drugs, will be the same for everybody.

I want again to mention the question of colour. Colour is very important in this type of situation. I hope that the Minister in his discussions with the medical profession will advert to the possibility of having a distinctive colour, red, blue or some other distinctive colour for this type of prescription so that they will be readily identifiable wherever they appear. It will become well known that that particular colour and type of document can only mean a controlled drug. It would be very quickly established throughout the distribution system and throughout the professions, people associated with the distribution of these drugs, that this was the standard document; if you saw one of these things anywhere you could be on your guard and you could be alerted to the fact that controlled drugs were involved. That is very important.

There has been a very interesting report by the National Prices Commission about the savings that could be effected by a more rational use of forms throughout the bureaucracy. There is a great deal in that and it is something that should certainly be followed up. Rather than, as the Minister seems to suggest, this proposal further complicating the situation, I would have thought that something like this would help to standardise and rationalise the prescription issue situation. If you had one standard form going right through the whole system, used by vets, dentists, doctors and everybody else, that would have a rationalising effect.

Deputy Briscoe mentioned the length of time everybody has been waiting for this Bill. I want to assure the Minister that we are very anxious to have the Bill dealt with. We offer him our complete co-operation in ensuring that, dodgy and rickety though this Administration may be at the moment, this Bill becomes law before [721] the Dáil dissolves. We have all travelled too far with it to let it fall at this stage. While we want to try to get these various Report Stage amendments dealt with, we will not, as Deputy Briscoe said, delay the Bill unduly. Certainly we will make sure that whatever else falls with this Dáil this Bill will not and that we will leave at least this legislation on the Statute Book before we take to the hustings.

Again I accept the reality of the situation that we cannot do much more about this proposal on Report Stage. I am somewhat encouraged about what the Minister has said and I will urge him to go as far as he can under the provisions of paragraph (f) to ensure that a very identifiable system, as watertight as possible, is introduced quickly for the issue of prescriptions for controlled drugs, because that is a key factor that will greatly affect the efficacy of the operation of the Bill.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Mr. Haughey: I move amendment No. 15:

In page 7, line 13, before “manufacture” to insert “import, export, transport”.

In this amendment we are still dealing with arrangements which the Minister will be able to make by regulation to control the situation. I had better read the existing subsection (2) of section 5 in order to indicate more clearly what I seek to achieve:

Subject to section 13 of this Act, the Minister shall exercise his power to make regulations under this section so as to secure that it is not unlawful under this Act for

(a) a practitioner for the purpose of his profession, to prescribe, administer, manufacture, compound or supply a controlled drug,

(b) a pharmacist for the purpose of his profession or business, to manufacture, compound or supply a controlled drug,

provided that nothing in this subsection shall be construed as enabling the Minister to make regulations under this Act [722] authorising a registered druggist to keep open shop for the compounding or dispensing of medical prescriptions.

With the proposed amendment the paragraph would read: “a pharmacist for the purpose of his profession or business to import, export, transport, manufacture, compound or supply a controlled drug”.

I explained the reasons for this proposal during the course of the Committee Stage debate. It seemed to me to be necessary to cover all the range of activities. At the moment subsection (2) is the provision which enables the Minister to make regulations to secure that it is not unlawful for a pharmacist for the purpose of his profession or business to do certain things, but paragraph (b) is confined to manufacturing, compounding, supplying a controlled drug. I think it would be necessary that that power should extend to importing, exporting, transporting as well as to manufacturing, compounding or supplying. The Minister might argue that the existing wording comprises the activities of importing, exporting and transporting. I do not think they do.

Mr. Corish: Would it help the Deputy if I said I was accepting the amendment?

Mr. Donegan: It saves a lot of sweat.

Mr. Corish: I am sorry I did not tell the Deputy earlier.

Mr. Haughey: It saves a lot of brilliant rhetoric on my part. I thank the Minister.

Amendment agreed to.

Mr. Corish: I move amendment No. 16:

In page 7, line 46, to insert “and in such other manner (if any) as the Minister may consider appropriate” after “Oifigiúil”.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Amendments Nos. 16 and 19 are cognate and amendment No. 20 in the name of Deputy Haughey is an alternative. These three amendments may, by agreement, be taken together.

Mr. Corish: This was discussed extensively in the Special Committee. [723] Deputy Haughey and Deputy Byrne participated in that debate and believed that there should be more publicity than would be given to a direction in Irish Oifigiúil. On that occasion I agreed in principle with the need for more publicity but did not accept the proposals put forward. There were a variety of proposal. Deputy Haughey put forward his proposal that the direction should be publicised in two or more medical journals. That is repeated today in his amendment No. 20.

My amendments are Nos. 16 and 19 and are of a more general nature and, I suggest, are preferable for the following reasons. I did indicate in Committee that the amendments I now propose would be the amendments I would put forward on Report Stage. First of all the direction might not be of medical interest and could relate to dental or veterinary practice. Secondly, it could not always be assumed that the two journals appropriate for publication of the direction would exist or be published at sufficiently frequent intervals to make the publication effective. Thirdly, there could be difficulties if the journal refused to publish the direction. These are practical difficulties which I ask the Deputy to appreciate, and I urge acceptance of amendments Nos. 16 and 19 which put the obligation on the Minister to give further publicity to each direction, this publicity being what is appropriate to the circumstances of the case. As I said on Committee Stage, publication of a direction would be in Irish Oifigiúil and could be taken by any other journal or any newspaper. There is no stricture on the publication in any other magazine, periodical or newspaper when a direction has been made by the Minister.

We should also appreciate the difficulty and embarrassment there would be to some member of the medical profession if for a minor offence the publicity in respect of a direction for that minor offence were not alone in Iris Oifigiúil but also in other journals and newspapers. I would ask therefore that, as I suggested in Committee, the section would read: “The Minister shall cause a copy of any direction [724] given by him under this section to be served on a person to whom it applies and shall cause notice of any such direction to be published in Iris Oifigiúil and in such other manner (if any) as the Minister may consider appropriate”. That would be the fairest thing to do in all the circumstances. We should not be too specific in respect of two particular journals, good journals in themselves and of interest to the medical profession. In all the circumstances the Minister should be given this discretion to publicise it further if he thinks it is right to do so apart from publication in Iris Oifigiúil.

Mr. Briscoe: I moved this amendment on behalf of Deputy Haughey. The reason for doing this was that most of the medical profession in this country read either the Irish Medical Times or the British Medical Journal. There is also the IMA journal which has a large circulation here among the medical profession. Whilst the Minister's amendments are acceptable and welcome, we feel that with reference to anything relating to the advertising or announcing of the prescribed drugs in these various magazines, such as Iris Oifigiúil, those that affect the medical profession could go into the medical magazines, those relating to the veterinary profession would go into veterinary magazines and those affecting the dental profession would go into dental magazines.

Whilst the Minister says that these other magazines are free to take anything they wish from Iris Oifigiúil, the fact is that if something is going into Iris Oifigiúil which will affect a doctor and which might be embarrassing if published in other magazines, its publication in Iris Oifigiúil makes it public in any case. The Minister was absent when I moved this amendment in Committee on behalf of Deputy Haughey, but I am repeating myself in stating that those items which would normally appear in Iris Oifigiúil which would have interest for the medical profession could be published in the medical magazines and so on. There is no reason why every announcement published in Iris Oifigiúil has to go into all the magazines appertaining to the profession.

[725] Mr. Haughey: The House, I hope, is fully aware of what we are dealing with here. We are dealing with a social situation which we would all hope would not arise very often but which, unfortunately, we must be prepared to accept will arise from time to time. There is no need to restate one's belief in the fact that we are wonderfully served in this country by our professions in that they have very fine traditions stretching back into their earliest history, traditions of complete and total integrity. Successive Parliaments and Executives have placed complete trust in those traditions and in that integrity. Indeed, without a secure knowledge that such standards prevail throughout our professions the administration of a great deal of our health and welfare services would be very complicated, if not impossible, so it is only fitting that, when we come to deal with the sort of situation we are dealing with in section 6, we pay that tribute to the standards which are upheld in the professions. These traditions and standards are a very important national asset. From time to time we take them for granted and trade on them and we as a legislature very often pass laws and assume that these standards and that integrity will be upheld because without that integrity the laws would not be effective. Unfortunately, in all professions and in all walks of life there will be the occasional lapse, and occasionally people who will transgress, people who will be careless, or who will be simply commercially minded, will seek to use their professions in a wrong way.

Section 6 deals with practitioners or pharmacists, in other words, dentists, doctors, veterinary surgeons and pharmacists. It is important to point out that the section only comes into operation where a person has actually been convicted of an offence under this measure or of an offence against the Customs Act in relation to the importation or exportation of controlled drugs. That is a safeguard in the section. The direction which the Minister can give under section 6 can only be given in the case of a person [726] who has been convicted. The next thing to note is that he must be convicted of an offence under this legislation or under the Customs Act in relation to the importation or the exportation of controlled drugs. To that extent section 6 is very confined and we need not be unduly worried that it is in any way onerous in so far as the professions are concerned.

Where a person has abused his profession and has been convicted of an abuse in regard to controlled drugs, the Minister is taking power to give a direction in regard to that person. The Minister is taking the very sensible precaution of denying the person possession or the power to prescribe, administer, manufacture, compound or supply controlled drugs. It is only common sense that where a person is convicted of an offence in relation to controlled drugs, he should be stopped by the Minister from continuing to have power under this legislation to deal with these drugs. Where a pharmacist has been so convicted the Minister can give a direction prohibiting him from having in his possession, manufacturing, compounding, and supplying, or supervising or controlling the manufacture, compounding or supply of such controlled drugs as set out in the direction. In the case of a pharmacist the direction will only apply to controlled drugs. It will not apply to the normal carrying on of his trade as a pharmacist. This is a very tightly drawn section and it could not in any way be regarded as being onerous by the professions. It is very fair to the professional people concerned. I suppose it is serious enough for a professional person to have this direction issued in regard to him. As the section was originally drafted, it proposed that when the direction was made by the Minister various things would happen:

(4) The Minister shall cause a copy of any direction given by him under this section to be served on the person to whom it applies and shall cause notice of any such direction to be published in the Iris Oifigiúil.

(5) A direction under this section shall take effect when a copy of it [727] is served on the person to whom it applies.

(6) Any person who contravenes a direction given under this section shall be guilty of an offence.

It is a very clearly defined section and the situation in regard to these directions is very clearly set out and specified in the body of the section. We are in agreement with that section. It is a useful weapon of protection for the Minister to have at his disposal. It would be ridiculous to think that a person who was convicted of an offence in regard to controlled drugs could be free to carry on prescribing or supplying these drugs to the general public. It is no good for the Minister to just give a direction to the person convicted. It is also very important that everybody concerned in the business should know about the direction and should know that this person is no longer entitled to the privileges of handling controlled drugs in the way he had been because of his professional capacity.

We all agree that a simple publication in Iris Oifigiúil is not enough. Iris Oifigiúil is a very bureaucratic, weighty and intimidating sort of document—it is not bedside reading for many members of the general public. It would be very interesting to carry out a survey on how many Deputies skim through Iris Oifigiúil every week. Particularly since our entry into the EEC Iris Oifigiúil has taken on enormous proportions because of the directives in regard to companies. There are far more issues of Iris Oifigiúil coming out now than before. Whereas publication in Iris Oifigiúil is a necessary bureaucratic step in regard to anything of this nature, it cannot be considered in the nature of a public publication. It is an official statutory publication but it could not be regarded as putting the general public on notice about a particular matter.

Since our discussion on Committee Stage the Minister has gone some way towards meeting us by reason of amendments Nos. 16 and 19. Both the amendments are the same in principle although they apply to different parts of the Bill. The Minister proposes that [728] in addition to causing the notice of the direction to be published in Iris Oifigiúil it shall be published also in such other manner, if any, as the Minister may consider appropriate. That is a step forward although not very convincingly so. One cannot but be alerted to the Minister's mind by reason of the insidious insertion of the words “if any”. He is leaving himself plenty of scope to do nothing more than have the direction published in Iris Oifigiúil, if he so decides. Therefore, there is nothing very mandatory about his amendment. In effect, it is merely making a half-hearted offer to consider doing something more but, half-hearted as it may be, I would be much happier about it if the words “if any” were deleted. Perhaps the Minister would have a look at this aspect of it. The insertion of those words take entirely from the force of the amendment and would seem to make it very casual.

I do not wish to be tendentious. The Report Stage of a Bill is not the occasion for aggravation but I wonder if, in this connection, it is enough for us to leave the matter to what the Minister may consider appropriate. Unfortunately, I must point out that during the Special Committee debate the following exchange occurred as is reported in the proceedings for 18th February. Deputy O'Connell, speaking of these medical journals and the publication of notice of these directions in medical journals said he assumed that the Minister meant medical journals published in the country, to which Deputy Byrne replied “That is not stated”. But the Minister said he was sure that every doctor in the country gets The Lancet also, to which Deputy O'Connell replied that that publication would not have a 5 per cent circulation in Ireland. Here was a situation in which our Minister for Health, well versed though he may be in other matters, was not very well informed regarding the circulation situation of medical journals. Consequently, we must ask whether in those circumstances we would be justifield in leaving the degree of publication to what the Minister may consider appropriate.

Bearing in mind the very weak [729] wording of the Minister's amendments. I prefer the amendment in my name. I envisage notice of these directions being published in Iris Oifigiúil. We all accept that that is necessary, that it is preliminary but I suggest that these notices be published also in at least two recognised medical journals. I gather from the Minister that because there will be dentists, vets and pharmacists involved he considers it would not be appropriate to provide for publication in two medical journals. I cannot accept that contention. If such notices are published in Iris Oifigiúil and also in two recognised medical journals, everybody who should know about the existence of these directions would be put on reasonable notice.

I agree with the Minister and sympathise with his point of view that in the event of a venial lapse by a member of the profession it would not be desirable to brandish the demeanour across the public Press for fear of creating a wrong impression. We must endeavour to strike a balance in this regard to ensure that the professional and the business people involved would know about the directions while, at the same time, not to create a need for graphic descriptions in the public Press. That is why I suggested adding the words “two recognised medical journals”. Perhaps this would be a better way of dealing with the matter than leaving it open which would be the case if the Minister's amendments were to be accepted.

Before we go further, I should like to hear from the Minister as to whether he is prepared to drop the words “if any” from his two amendments. I expect this can be done across the House.

Dr. Gibbons: One might be forgiven for thinking that Iris Oifigiúil was a house magazine of the Land Commission because for some time most of that publication's material concerned the activities of that body. Certainly, as Deputy Haughey said, Iris Oifigiúil is not a document that finds its way into the hands of many people down the country. Consequently, it would be futile to hope [730] that anything published in it would reach the public.

Deputy Haughey seemed to think that the Minister's amendments were somewhat woolly in the sense that they would bestow on him a wide latitude as to where the information should be published. I would be inclined to agree that the Minister should have this latitude but that it should be limited to medical or professional journals. One would imagine that the most important people to be informed of such directions would be, first, the CEOs of the health boards since some doctors would be in a position of being able to order drugs through the health boards and, secondly, the pharmacists, since prescriptions issued by a doctor, a vet or a dentist must go to a pharmacist to be filled or, perhaps, to a drug company. I feel that such a journal is a “must”. The medical journal creates a bigger problem. The Lancet was mentioned and I think it is true that the circulation of The Lancet among doctors is very small. It is quite possible that the British Medical Journal will come in in diminishing numbers in future also by virtue of the fact that we now have to pay £7 per year extra if we wish to get it. This will not be as attractive a bargain as it was in the past because being a member of the Irish Medical Association you got it automatically. To a certain extent, I think that must be out. That brings us back to the Irish Medical Journal which, to me, seems the appropriate one to publish in. Again, all doctors do not get this. The same applies, I suppose, to the magazine of the Medical Union. One must think of the other people who should be informed, the public, and this raises the question of it being published in the local papers. It must be of some interest to the public to know that a medical or veterinary practitioner or a dentist is not in a position to prescribe. Taking it all in all, I am inclined to agree with the Minister that the words he uses are the appropriate words to cover the case as I see it.

Mr. Haughey: I understand we are taking the three amendments together. Two of them are the Minister's and one is mine.

[731] An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Decisions can be made separately.

Mr. Haughey: Does the Minister want to reply?

Mr. Corish: Very briefly. I think the amendments in my name, Nos. 16 and 19 are the consensus of the Special Committee. I was pretty open-minded in that Committee as regards suggestions or amendments. I do not want to protect anyone who commits a misdemeanour under this Act and in this case the practitioners but I also think we should have regard to their position. We do not want to protect them; neither do we want to pillory them. As I said in introducing the amendment, there could be a case of a minor misdemeanour and under the terms of the amendment proposed by Deputy Haughey this would have to be published not only in Iris Oifigiúil but in two recognised medical journals. It might be a technical offence but still the man would get this publicity. I recognise that if there is a grave abuse by a doctor or any other practitioner it might be necessary to go beyond the journals but, as far as Deputy Haughey's amendment is concerned, I am confined to the journals. As Deputy Gibbons pointed out—I take it we are all concerned about it—not alone should certain information or the publication of a direction be available to those who read medical journals but it should also be available to the public. That is extremely important because a doctor could be a pusher and could be abusing the Act and handing out controlled drugs whole-sale or in any other way. If I accept Deputy Haughey's amendment, I am confined but if my amendments are accepted it means I can go beyond the medical journals if I so decide, to, say, the national newspapers.

Deputy Haughey asked me to consider deleting the words “if any”. These words were inserted by the parliamentary draftsman because there could be circumstances where no publication might be needed, for example, if a doctor were practising in a remote rural area, sending copies of a direction to a few local pharmacists, perhaps, other than local [732] doctors could be enough. I may be criticised on the basis that I am taking too much liberty in this and that my discretion would not be sufficient. I think we must consider everything —to punish those who have blatantly offended under the legislation but not to damage those who have committed minor or technical offences.

Mr. Haughey: On reflection, I can now see the need to leave in the words “if any”.

Mr. Corish: It is an improvement on what we had in the original.

Amendment agreed to.

Mr. Corish: I move amendment No. 17:

In page 9, line 13, to insert “in writing” after “representations”.

This section deals with appeals and this is actually a drafting amendment. It requires that if any representations are received by the Minister for or on behalf of a respondent, these representations shall be in writing. It is an omission, in fact, because paragraph (b) refers to representations being made in writing. It is a question of adding “in writing” to subsection (6).

Amendment agreed to.

Mr. Corish: I move amendment No. 18:

In page 10, line 2, to delete “subsection (1)” and substitute “subsection (2)”.

This is to amend a drafting error in the Bill. The reference should have been to subsection (2), the subsection under which it is possible, where the Minister considers there are grounds for issuing a special direction, to refer the matter for investigation to a committee of inquiry.

Amendment agreed to.

Mr. Corish: I move amendment No. 19:

In page 10, line 11, to insert “, and in such other manner (if any)

as the Minister may consider appropriate,” before “a copy”.

Amendment agreed to.

[733] Mr. Haughey: I move amendment No. 20:

In page 10, line 11. before “a” to insert “and in at least two recognised medical journals”.

Mr. Briscoe: I thought that we could discuss this, having moved it.

An Ceann Comhairle: It was discussed with amendment No. 16 and may not be debated again. There can be a separate decision but no debate. Is the amendment being withdrawn?

Mr. Haughey: No. We want it put.

Amendment put and declared lost.

Mr. Corish: I move amendment No. 21:

In page 12, line 19, to insert “or pharmacist” after “practitioner”.

This is a drafting amendment. As section 11 stood originally it afforded a practitioner the right of appeal to the courts against a special direction or a temporary direction. Special or temporary directions apply only to responsible prescribing, and so on, and have no relevance to pharmacists. However, the section was amended in Committee so as to extend this right of appeal to section 6 directions, that is, directions withdrawing the doctor's or pharmacist's authority where he is convicted of a drug offence. Consequently it is now necessary to insert the word “pharmacist” as proposed so as to bestow on pharmacists the same legal recourse already afforded to practitioners so far as an appeal is concerned.

Mr. Haughey: We have no alternative but to accept this. It is simply to make sure that the pharmacist has the same right as the other professional people involved. It would be grossly unfair if a pharmacist who happened to get caught up in this unfortunate sort of situation did not have this right of appeal which is open to his professional colleagues. Therefore the amendment is strictly necessary.

It is also very desirable to have this provision about appeals. We do not want this Bill running into the same constitutional difficulties as similar Bills in other areas. Therefore, section 11, by providing for this appeals machinery, will help to obviate any [734] such unfortunate developments. There is nothing which brings a Bill into greater disrepute, or makes it less effective for the purpose for which it is intended, than that any constitutional difficulties should arise in regard to it.

The challenging of a Bill in the courts could result in the suspension of the operation of the legislation for a considerable period. It is very important that in so far as we possibly can we ensure that when a Bill leaves this House it is in such a shape that it is not capable of being challenged in the courts. If we had passed this legislation with the right of appeal available to practitioners as defined in the Bill, and not available to pharmacists, I do not think it would have been very long before its constitutionality would have been challenged. It is fortunate, therefore, that this drafting error, this drafting technicality, was discovered in time and is now being put right in this way, apart from the common justice involved in affording to a pharmacist who had the misfortune to become involved in a direction situation the same right of appeal as is afforded to other types of professional people involved.

Amendment agreed to.

An Ceann Comhairle: Amendment No. 22 was debated with No. 2.

Mr. Corish: I move amendment No. 22:

In page 13, line 37, to delete “opium” and insert “or otherwise using prepared opium” after “smoking”.

Amendment agreed to.

An Ceann Comhairle: Amendment No. 24 is cognate with amendment No. 23 and I suggest we debate them together.

Mr. Corish: I move amendment No. 23:

In page 14, lines 5 and 6, to delete “medical practitioner, dentist or veterinary surgeon” and substitute “practitioner”.

The definition “practitioner” has been substituted for the definition [735] “qualified person” in section 1. Consequently it is necessary to make this amendment throughout the Bill.

Amendment agreed to.

Mr. Corish: I move amendment No. 24:

In page 14, lines 9 and 10, to delete “medical practitioner, dentist or veterinary surgeon” and substitute “practitioner”.

Amendment agreed to.

Mr. Corish: I move amendment No. 25:

In page 14, between lines 14 and 15, to insert the following:

“(4) The Minister may by regulations declare that in circumstances specified in the regulations subsection (3) of this section shall not apply in relation to persons who are of a prescribed class or description, and for so long as regulations under this subsection are in force the said subsection (3) shall be construed in accordance with and have effect subject to the regulations”.

Again referring to the Special Committee, Deputy Haughey made the point that subsection (3) in its present from would need to be qualified to cover a situation in which a parent, a pharmacist or a member of the Garda might take possession of a forged prescription but not for an unlawful purpose. I fully agree with Deputy Haughey and, to meet the situation, I now propose an amendment which will enable the Minister to declare in regulations that in certain circumstance subsection (3) will not apply to persons of a prescribed class or description.

Mr. Haughey: Again the Minister is meeting the point of view we expressed at the Special Committee on the matter of forged or fraudulently altered prescriptions. Section 18 (1) makes it an offence for a person to forge a document purporting to be a prescription issued by a medical practitioner, dentist or veterinary surgeon, which document in this Act is referred to as a forged prescription. Subsection (2) provides: [736] A person shall not with intent to deceive either alter or use a prescription which has been duly issued by a medical practitioner, dentist or veterinary surgeon (which document is in this Act referred to as a duly issued prescription).

Subsection (3) provides:

A person shall not have in his possession either a forged prescription or a duly issued prescription which has been altered with intent to deceive.

Subsection (4) provides that a person who does any of those things shall be guilty of an offence and the penalty provision set out later on in the legislation shall apply. As the Minister has pointed out, we wanted this amendment made. The amendment put forward by the Minister is satisfactory from our point of view. It is a reasonable and necessary safeguard. I want to express our appreciation to the Minister for meeting the viewpoint we put forward in this regard in the Special Committee.

Amendment agreed to.

Mr. Corish: I move amendment No. 26:

In page 14, to insert “contrary to section 17 of this Act” after “cultivation” in line 21.

The inclusion of a reference in this section to the cultivation of the opium poppy and the cannabis plant proposed by Deputy Byrne was accepted in the Special Committee. In the considerable discussion on this section the fact that Deputy Byrne's amendment could not be allowed to stand without the further amendment now proposed was overlooked. If the words “contrary to section 17 of this Act” were not included, the section as it now stands would make it an offence to allow the use of one's land for such cultivation even if the person using the land had a licence from the Minister to grow opium poppies or cannabis plants for research or industrial purposes.

Dr. Byrne: When this Bill was discussed in the Special Committee it was of great interest to see the drafting in so far as it related to the growing [737] of the plant of the genus cannabis. As we know, cannabis grows quite freely in this country and legislation to prevent its growth and subsequent harvesting and distribution is to be commended. I wish to thank the Minister for helping in this regard.

Much has been said about the adverse effects of cannabis. However, there are people who speak in favour of it, who say it is a harmless and non-addictive drug, one without any side-effects. I say quite categorically that these people are fools. It has not been shown that cannabis is a harmless drug. There is no research available in the world to indicate that it is totally without side-effects. On the contrary, the bulk of the research has shown that marijuana, cannabis or hash or its many other names has an insidious danger associated with it not only to the physique but also to the psyche, the culture and the morality of society.

We have seen the subcultures that have evolved because of the use of this drug. We have seen the increase in the drop-out rate from universities and schools and we have seen the very sad disorientation that can occur. In their wisdom WHO have recently refined marijuana not as a drug of dependence or addiction but as a drug of disorientation. It is here that the greatest danger lies. It can undermine society; indeed it has done so throughout the western world.

The mythology associated with the harmlessness of marijuana is sad. It is true that 99 per cent consumed in the world is eaten. The western world is one of the few parts of the earth where the drug is smoked. The effects of marijuana when eaten are only 10 per cent of what it is when smoked. Because of this it is very important that our legislation should act as a deterrent to prevent the cultivation and growing of cannabis. If the Minister's amendment is accepted section 19 (1) (a) will read: “the cultivation, contrary to section 17, of opium poppy or any plant of the genus Cannabis”. In that connection I wish to refer briefly to a reference made by Albert Greenwood, MD, Resident in Neuro-pathology, [738] Presbyterian Hospital in the city of New York. He said:

We believe, on the contrary, that the untoward social and medical effects of marijuana reported by the marijuana commission and in the past and present medical literature do not justify the legalisation of cannabis anywhere in the world. We believe that the recommendations of the 1961 Geneva Single Convention outlawing stupefying drugs should not be unilaterally denounced by the United States.

In so far as cannabis can be and has been grown in the country and having regard to the increased use of the drug throughout our society, any attempt by us to liberalise cannabis or to attempt to send a message from this House that cannabis is harmless will be an unfortunate day for this Parliament.

An Ceann Comhairle: I hope the Deputy is not embarking on what might be regarded as a Second Reading speech. The amendment in the name of the Minister is the subject matter of the debate.

Dr. Byrne: I do not wish to stray from the confines of the debate but I wish to refer to the amendment by the Minister. I support it wholeheartedly and I am giving my reasons for that support. The Minister was correct in accepting the bones of the amendments I tabled in the Special Committee. I am grateful to him for rephrasing and redrafting them. On many occasions people have attempted to ignore the fact that marijuana grows in this country. Of course it grows here.

An Ceann Comhairle: Could I dissuade the Deputy from embarking upon what is becoming a Second Reading speech?

Dr. Byrne: I presume I can refer to the cultivation of the genus cannabis?

An Ceann Comhairle: The Second and Committee Stages have been disposed of. We are now on Report Stage where it is not usual to have long detailed speeches.

[739] Mr. Haughey: Cannabis is central to the whole issue. Perhaps the Chair might indulge the Deputy a little on this because he has very strong views on it.

Dr. Byrne: Very little has been said about the cultivation of the genus cannabis to which this amendment refers. I presume I am in order to refer to the cultivation of cannabis.

An Ceann Comhairle: All this has been referred to on previous Stages.

Dr. Byrne: Does that automatically rule out any reference to it here?

An Ceann Comhairle: Not any reference but the Chair will allow brief references. I would dissuade the Deputy from going into detail.

Mr. Haughey: The Chair will monitor the Deputy.

Dr. Byrne: I will abide by the Chair's ruling and will refer briefly to the cultivation of the genus cannabis.

Mr. Haughey: The Deputy mentioned something about new information on cannabis.

Mr. Timmons: Where is it grown? Is it grown in Ballymun?

Dr. Byrne: The genus cannabis can grow in this country. Unfortunately people have often referred in a flippant fashion to this fact but its cultivation by private individuals, the harvesting of the plant for smoking, and its euphoric depressive effects are to be deplored. Heretofore, we had no effective law to prevent the cultivation of cannabis. It grows better on the west coast than the east coast. Therefore we should be more observant beacuse of the——

Mr. Briscoe: Has the Deputy been experimenting?

Dr. Byrne: ——affinity of the plant for the soil on the west coast. It would be no harm if the public realised that members of the Legislature are aware that some people grow cannabis here. It is important that this section be included in this Bill because while [740] officials at our airports and ports are able to detect, arrest and confiscate in any attempted importation of cannabis, we also have an internal source of cannabis. I would like now to refer briefly to the opium poppy which is very easy to cultivate and which is referred to in this legislation. Both plants can be grown quite liberally here, the product from both can be mixed. It is correct to have both in this section. In a previous amendment there was no combination of the genus cannabis and the opium poppy.

An Ceann Comhairle: I was hoping the Deputy would come back to the amendment from which he is straying. The amendment refers to the insertion of a number of words, that is, “contrary to section 17”. The section is not under discussion; the amendment is. I have allowed the Deputy a lot of latitude. He must come to the point of the amendment or desist.

Dr. Byrne: This amendment refers to section 19 (1) (a) which reads:

A person who is the occupier or is in control or is concerned in the management of any land, vehicle or vessel and who knowingly permits or suffers any of the following to take place on the land, vehicle or vessel, namely—

(a) the cultivation of opium poppy or any plant of the genus Cannabis,

An Ceann Comhairle: The question is whether these words should be inserted.

Dr. Byrne: These words are inserted to protect the person who owns land and may have rented it to a person who grows the opium poppy or cannabis. If that is the case a certain amount of onus can fall on the landowner who may be living abroad and who may not be aware that the opium poppy or the genus cannabis are growing on his land. The insertion of these words will protect that landowner. The second part of subsection (1) refers to the person who knowingly permits or suffers any of the following to take place. Section 17 reads as follows:

[741] (1) A person shall not cultivate opium poppy or any plant of the genus Cannabis except under and in accordance with a licence issued in that behalf by the Minister.

(2) Every person who cultivates opium poppy or a plant of the genus Cannabis in contravention of subsection (1) of this section shall be guilty of an offence.

Debate adjourned.