The Minister for Justice has announced details of legislation aimed at putting headshops out of business.
Under proposed new legislation, a person convicted of selling psychoactive substances like those being sold by some headshops could face up to five years in jail.
The sanction is contained in the Criminal Justice (Psychoactive Substances) Bill 2010, which was published this morning by Minister Dermot Ahern.
The Government hopes the bill will pass all stages and become law before the Dáil and Seanad rise for the summer recess.
The bill was produced in record time, the Minister said, to counteract the problems being posed by the sale of such products through headshops.
It is designed to work in tandem with amendments to the Misuse of Drugs Act announced in May, which outlawed a number of substances commonly being sold by headshops.
Since then, the number of headshops nationwide has fallen from around 100 to 48.
Under the proposed legislation, it is illegal to sell or supply for human consumption substances which are not contained in the Misuse of Drugs Act, but which have psychoactive effects.
The bill gives the gardaí immediate powers to close headshops, using a civil rather than a criminal burden of proof.
Under the legislation, a Garda Superintendent or higher ranked officer may serve a prohibition order on someone he or she believes is selling or supplying these substances.
If the superintendent then thinks the individual is not obeying the order, they can then apply to the District Court for a closure order or take a prosecution.
The definition of selling in the bill is broad, and includes supplying, distributing, offering for sale, exposing or keeping for sale and being in possession for sale.
It includes sale over the internet or through home delivery services.