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Irish court temporarily legalizes ecstasy and other drugs

Ecstasy, crystal meth and other psychoactive drugs are technically legal for at least the next day or so in Ireland.
Generic picture of ecstasy pills. (Photo by Randy Quan/Toronto Star/Getty)
Generic picture of ecstasy pills.

Ecstasy, crystal meth and other psychoactive drugs are technically legal for at least the next day or so in Ireland after a court struck down the government orders that criminalized them Tuesday.

The Irish parliament was in emergency session Tuesday night to fix the legal technicality the judge based his ruling on. But because any law wouldn't go into effect until 24 hours after it passes — which would be Thursday at the earliest — the national Health Department acknowledged that the drugs "cease to be controlled with immediate effect, and their possession ceases to be an offence," at least for now.

"These include ecstasy, benzodiazepines and new psychoactive substances, so-called 'headshop drugs,'" the agency said in a statement.

How it happened is complicated — the 10,000-word ruling runs 30 pages (PDF) — so don't partake of any of the newly legal highs while we explain it.

A three-judge appeals court ruled Tuesday afternoon that government orders four years ago banning possession of about 100 newer drugs like ecstasy were unconstitutional because they were unilaterally added by government ministers to a 1977 law. Calling that "an impermissible delegation of the legislative power," the panel said the proper way to update the law was to go to lawmakers for consultation and amendment.

The ruling makes only possession of the drugs legal. Selling, supplying, exporting or importing them remains a crime, Health Minister Leo Varadkar said. And older, more traditional drugs like heroin and cocaine aren't affected at all.

Varadkar said the government knew there was a chance the court could invalidate the orders and had "prepared for this possibility" by drafting the emergency legislation in advance. "The emergency legislation I am introducing today will re-instate the status quo ante and re-control all drugs that were controlled prior to this judgment," he said.

In related news, there was no immediate confirmation of reports that a Walter White had hijacked a plane from Albuquerque, New Mexico, to Dublin.

This article originally appeared at