Ireland’s Head Shops Under Attack

Members of the Dublin Fire Brigade tackle a blaze at the Nirvana head shop on Capel Street on Feb. 12, 2010. (Photo by Niall Carson)Members of the Dublin Fire Brigade tackle a blaze at the Nirvana head shop on Capel Street on Feb. 12, 2010. (Photo by Niall Carson)DUBLIN, Ireland – It started with an explosion that destroyed the Nirvana shop in Dublin’s Capel Street on Feb. 12.

Five days later a Molotov cocktail was thrown into the Happy Hippy store in North Frederick Street.

Since then seven retail outlets with similar exotic names have been attacked with incendiary devices in different parts of Ireland, the latest being the Magic Bus Stop in Dundalk on April 15.

They are all so-called “head shops,” which specialize in the sale of legal drugs and associated paraphernalia. There are 70 such stores in the Republic of Ireland, and clearly some organization or group of citizens wants to put them out of business.

The head shops’ products have become something of a craze among Ireland’s middle-class youth. This makes them lucrative business ventures in recession-hit Ireland. In a two-hour period on a recent Friday night, a television crew recorded 400 young customers lining up at a head shop to pay an average of 40 euros ($53) for drugs with names like Snow Blow and Wild Cat. These substances often contain mephedrone, a chemical in white powder form that mimics cocaine and is completely legal in Ireland.

The head of the Irish police’s national drug squad, Tony Quilter, said the force monitors the head shops and so far has found only four selling illegal drugs. The police do not know who is behind the attacks on the head shops, Quilter said. The chief suspects include local drug dealers who are losing business or vigilante groups worried about the effect of the shops on their neighborhoods.

As the public becomes increasingly concerned about the legal drug trend, the Irish government is rushing to prepare a bill to criminalize the sale of legal highs. It has fallen behind the rest of Europe, where 14 countries have introduced measures to control the sale of such substances, with varying degrees of success. A ban on mephedrone came into effect in Great Britain and Northern Ireland three weeks ago, giving a new dimension to cross-border shopping.

But lawmakers will have a hard time keeping up. Twenty-four new, legal, chemical-based drugs emerged in Europe last year to satisfy a continent-wide demand for synthetic highs, according to a report from the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction. Nine of these are marketed as plant foods or spices but can be smoked to give a similar effect to cannabis.

Mephedrone has been linked to a number of deaths in other countries, and much publicity has been given to the case of a young Dublin man, Daryl Smith, who tried to commit suicide after taking an overdose. Smith was waiting at a bridge to jump under a train and then tried to stab himself with a screwdriver. The 19-year-old student is typical of educated teenagers who would never buy illegal drugs but regularly get high on mephedrone.

With the proliferation of new drugs, the Irish minister for community affairs, Pat Carey, wants to prohibit head shops operating as legal entities. Banning the substances may not be enough, he argues. According to the Monitoring Centre report, suppliers easily circumvent drug controls by offering unregulated alternatives. The composition in terms of synthetic additives is constantly changing to evade control measures, and new packaging appears all the time.

Irish Justice Minister Dermot Ahern agreed that one of the problems of banning a substance was that a variation of that product could be quickly introduced. He is aiming to change the law “to deal with the issue from a criminal justice point of view, as well as from a health point of view.” But some members of Ahern’s own Fianna Fail party sharply disagree. Parliament backbencher Jim McDaid said his approach would be a huge mistake, as it would allow criminal gangs to take over the businesses.

Because of the adverse publicity they have received recently, some head shops have begun distributing leaflets offering home delivery. In some parts of Dublin it is now as easy to get artificial cocaine or cannabis delivered to your door as it is to order a pizza.

– Article from GlobalPost.



  1. Anonymous on

    in this scenario dont look at who its effecting, but who it will benefit. that said, watch for harsher drug laws in ireland and u might get ur answr

  2. Anonymous on

    NO, This article has got it completely wrong, its illegal drug dealers who have lost business carrying out the attacks, not anti-drugs groups. I live in dublin and i am aware of headshop owners who have been threatened by disgruntled Drug dealers, pissed off at losing customers, to the headshops.

  3. Tim Giangiobbe on

    It is sad that kids find a NEED to do this.I suppose the Government can step in and make new laws but that CREATES black markets anyway and even higher prices and bigger profits.Education and an alternative may help.DUH!!!!!

  4. tim Giangiobbe on

    I can’t believe that society has not sen the truth about who the real dealers are.THe Drug Companies make Billions poisoning and then they deny a simple herb.I can remember the Bennies you are talking anout and they were cleaner and less addictive.The crap now they end up smoking and the act of smoking it becomes like crack and has a real bad effect.SAD.I can tell when a fellow Baby Boomer is sounding off.Give em hell!! I can’t believe what’s transpired either. WE are at least getting cannabis OTC eventually.Prohibition of any substance creates a black market of crappy PPRODUCT.DUH Another no brainer but will they THINK!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  5. Tim Giangiobbe on

    I am happy our conservative zealots have not resorted to these kind of tactics.They ae happy with using the law and making useless Federal Laws.WE need a Common Ethic Worldwide that does not approve of such tactics against something so contreversial.I don’t want to think there is a church group behind the nonsense.We need to GET Cannabis OTC and the Taxes will be a boon in this world economic recession.To get the sales off the street is a harm reduction no brainer.

  6. Anonymous on

    Love how they admit that they can’t even keep up with the legal high trend cause they keep coming out with new substances. All these substances mimic the effects of natural drugs. If you want to stop people from producing potentially dangerous, highly concentrated synthetic drugs, legalize the natural drugs they mimic. A good example would be crystal meth. Crystal meth was created as a response to society making it hard to get bennies from pharmacies (bennies is an old name for amphetamine, it used to be widely prescribed and was easily available at pharmacies). At some point, the powers that be realized kids were getting high on bennies and restricted their availability. Within a few years, members of the Hells Angels were making crystal in their garages. While bennies were not natural, they were a relatively safe, regulated alternative to what has become a highly addictive, dangerous scourge on our society. Another, more recent, example is K-2. I’ll bet nobody would have even bothered coming up with it if cannabis were legal. If you’re wondering though, K-2 is better than schwag, and legal! I’d still choose real headies first though.

  7. Dub on

    im irish and live in Dublin. Whats goin on with these shops is ridiculous. Its quite sad to see the government clearly making the wrong decision. One which i will suffer from. They garda cant catch the drug dealers here so they focus the camera lens at a legitimate tax paying business to give the stupid citizens someone to blame. No education means problems. Ireland is a bury its head in the sand country run by aul coggers!! Love the site.

  8. Mojojojo on

    Well.. they ARE Irish. More than likely they drank the whiskey and filled the empty bottle with gasoline. I’ve got many Irish friends and I’ve never known any of them to waste their alcohol on violence.. drink it then GET violent sure, lol.

  9. DEXtronaut on

    I’m not usually the one to stereotype, but doesn’t it seem ironic that the Irish are wasting their alcohol to burn down headshops?

  10. Anonymous on

    Is there anything the Irish don’t blow up when they don’t agree with it? Who ever is behind this is a bunch of retards.