The Misuse of Drugs (Amendment) Bill 2016 (the “Bill”) commenced its legislative passage on 23 June 2016 when it was introduced to the Dáil by the Minister for Health.

The Bill aims to extend the scope of existing Misuse of Drugs legislation to include certain dangerous prescription drugs known to be misused and traded illegally, which are not currently classed as controlled drugs. One set of drugs to be included in the Bill are so-called “Z drugs”, a group of nonbenzodiazepine drugs with similar effects to benzodiazepines.

The Misuse of Drugs legislation enables the Minister for Health to make regulations to schedule and apply controls to specified groups of drugs and outline requirements for distribution and monitoring of the substances. These principles vary having regard to the extent to which drugs are used for medical or scientific purposes and having regard to the likelihood of abuse. Appropriate exemptions will cover legitimate use for professional purposes by healthcare providers including doctors and pharmacists. Such regulations will be drafted to give effect to the Bill.

According to the Minister for Health, the government decided to expedite the drafting and publication of parts of the Bill originally scheduled for the autumn, due to recent gangland-related murders in Dublin. The Minister hopes the Bill’s legislative process will be completed by the summer recess.

A second Misuse of Drugs Bill is expected to be published in Autumn 2016 to provide for the establishment of supervised injecting facilities for chronic drug users.

The Bill has not yet been made publicly available but the Department of Health’s press release in relation to the Bill can be found here.