Drugs: quicker reaction against new substances
- Faster assessment of new legal substances suspected to be harmful
- Quick ban at EU level when necessary
- Europol to investigate involvement of criminal organisations in the manufacture and distribution
- “Legal highs” will be subject to criminal law once included in the list of illegal drugs
“Legal highs”, new substances which can have a similar effect to heroin, cocaine and other illicit drugs, will be declared illegal and removed from the market more quickly.
Under new rules backed by the Civil Liberties Committee on Thursday and already agreed with the Council, the deadlines for determining the risks posed by new psychoactive substances (NPS) will be substantially reduced, shortening the whole procedure almost by half.
The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA, the EU drugs agency), already in charge of monitoring all new substances reported by member states, will also have to lead the exchange of information, draw a first report on any suspicious substance and prepare risk assessments when needed.
Following an initial report by the EMCDDA, the European Commission will have two weeks to request an assessment of the potential risks posed by the new substance, which should be submitted within six weeks after the request. The Commission will then be able to adopt a decision banning the substance, without being obliged to consult the Council beforehand. Member states will have to apply the ban no later than six months after the Commission’s decision. Legislators expect, however, that most countries will be able to apply the ban much faster than that.
Europol will have a more significant role in the early-warning system and risk assessment procedure, to help determine the involvement of criminal organisations in the manufacture and distribution of new psychoactive substances.
"Following the deal with Council, we will have an efficient mechanism at EU level to assess a new psychoactive substance and, if the assessment proves that it is dangerous, there will be a mechanism in place to remove it from the market. We need a fast and efficient system to deal with new substances that appear every year, often sold via the internet, posing a danger to our health, and particularly for young people”, said Michal Boni (EPP, PL), Parliament´s rapporteur for the changes to the EMCDDA Regulation.
“New psychoactive substances are a major threat to the health and safety of European citizens. Each year, many young people die, particularly men, after having used ´legal highs´. The proliferation of online selling of drugs, and the ease with which NPS can be developed in a laboratory, is making it difficult for the authorities to tackle the spread”, noted Teresa Jiménez-Becerril (EPP, ES), responsible for the update to the Directive laying down minimum provisions on the constituent elements of criminal acts and penalties in the field of illicit drug trafficking, as regards the definition of drug.
The European Commission presented in 2013 two legislative proposals in this field: a Regulation on new psychoactive substances and a Directive laying down minimum provisions on the constituent elements of criminal acts and penalties in the field of illicit drug trafficking, as regards the definition of drug.
Parliament voted on its position on 17 April 2014, but the Council refused to adopt a general approach, due to a disagreement on the legal basis for the proposed Regulation. Following a proposal by the Dutch Presidency of the Council, the Commission presented last August targeted amendments to the founding Regulation of EMCDDA, integrating the main provisions on early warning system and risk assessment procedure included in the 2013 proposal.
The Civil Liberties Committee on Thursday backed both texts with 39 votes to 1, with 1 abstention. They will now be submitted to plenary for approval, likely during the September or October sessions.