Tough new Head Shop laws make no economic sense

Posted: May 12, 2010 by undergroundfisherman in Media, Politics
Tags: , , , , ,

Cowen: Delighted with the new measures, but they could have unforeseen consequences

Wildcat, Snow, Smoke, Banzai, Ice, Charge, Blow, Spice, King B, Stardust, Magic… As of this week, it’s all gone, thanks to dramatic new legislation which puts all forms of “legal highs” on a similar plane as their illegal counterparts. Watching this debate play out in the media over the past few weeks, I realised that nobody seems to know the real facts, but everyone is angry. At first glance, it seems like everyone wants to ban them. While the new laws have been generally welcomed, there are other factors we must consider.

Firstly, we should remember that, much like many changes in the law such as the smoking ban, this is not a matter of public health or safety – it is a matter of politics. In a time when the government are being hit hard in the opinion polls (Fine Gael are 10 points ahead of Fíanna Fáil, according to the latest figures, it is easy to do the popular thing and ban something which is seen as a threat to our society. That’s fair enough, but anyone who wants to take drugs will find a way to do so, and if people can provide comparatively safe alternatives which have been produced in a clean, controlled factory setting, then surely that is better than a rendezvous with a shady drug-dealer on a street corner who might give you impure drugs that are even worse for your health.

It  would be far more beneficial to keep Head Shops open, regulate the standards of production, and bring in plenty of revenue for the government through taxation. Regardless of your stance on this matter, nobody wants to see illegal drug-dealers re-establish their monopoly on this market, but this is precisely what will happen now that they are the only outlet. Lots of Head Shops have been a target of vandalism lately, and much of it has come from drug dealers, whose stock has taken a nosedive since legal highs have hit the mainstream market. The same people who are willing to burn their competitors to the ground have now come out on top, thanks primarily to the government. There was, therefore, a real sense of irony about some of the quotes from the Taoiseach’s statement on the matter, as he decried; “We are determined that irresponsible people who want to profit from dangerous substances get the message that Government will not tolerate their reprehensible activities which are actually putting the lives and health of many young people at risk.”

Of course, this is a business which is far too lucrative to ever really go away. When the stimulant BZP was banned, mephedrone sweeped in and took its place. Now, with all of these substances taken off the shelves, it may be harder to find loopholes, but there will always be people willing to provide it, and make a significant profit as well. From now on though, rather than this service being run by legitimate operators, who pay tax and provide employment, the trade is put into the hands of more unscrupulous characters, whose standards and morals are much lower.

This time two years ago, nobody was talking about this subject. Now however, it has been shoved into the collective consciousness in dramatic fashion, and when it became apparent that there was a demand for these products, the government should have had the foresight to bring in legislation on tax and quality-control of the products, rather than caving in to hype and misrepresentation from tabloid newspapers. Here’s a link to some fine, level-headed journalism courtesy of the Sun.


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