EU could be given powers to ban 'legal highs' within weeks of them hitting the market
Chemical substances mimicking effects of illegal drugs such as ecstasy and cocaine currently take two years to remove from the shelves
The European Union could be given powers to ban dangerous psychoactive substances known as “legal highs” within weeks of them hitting the market, under new proposals unveiled by the bloc's legislative branch today.
Chemical substances mimicking the effects of illegal drugs such as ecstasy and cocaine have caused dozens of deaths, but right now it takes the EU two years to pull them from the shelves. The UN drugs office has warned that the problem is “hydra-headed”, with chemists simply tinkering with their formulas to create new, legal substances as soon as one is banned.
Under the proposals, the standard process for banning a substance within the EU would fall from 24 months to 10 months. When a substance was identified as being an “immediate risk”, temporary measures could get them off the shelves within weeks, pending a more detailed review.
“Speed makes all the difference,” Viviane Reding, vice-president of the European Commission, said today, warning that young people could be dying in the months it took to ban legal highs “Most of these substances have never even been tested on humans and nobody can say what risks they really pose to human health,” she said. “Far too often, these ‘legal’ highs are lethal.”
Powders and pills with names like Benzo Fury, China White and Meow Meow have been marketed as low-risk party drugs and sold openly in shops and on the internet. The Conservative MEP, Timothy Kirkhope, warned today that “the labs in China are moving faster than the law”.
“Many people assume that because a substance is openly on sale that there are limited risks,” he said. “However, the families of the 52 people killed in the UK last year would certainly disagree.”
Mr Kirkhope welcomed the Commission’s proposals, which now need approval by the 28 EU governments and the European Parliament.
The new measures would also give the EU a range of options to deal with psychoactive substances and penalise sellers. Today the EU can only ban a product entirely or leave it on the market. Under the new rules, the bloc would be able to ban a substance for private sale, but permit its use in the medical or chemicals industry. For the sale of substances deemed “severe-risk”, the bloc would recommend harsh criminal penalties including imprisonment.
Ms Reding conceded, however, that they would struggle to tackle the sale of legal highs on the internet, with many produced in China and sold online.
The EU drugs monitoring agency identified 73 new synthetic substances classed as psychoactive drugs last year, up from 49 such substances discovered in 2011. At least two million people in Europe have taken legal highs, with 5 per cent of the bloc's young people admitting to trying them. Britain has one of the highest rates, with a 10 per cent usage among young people.
Ms Reding warned that people were taking the drugs oblivious to the potential side-effects, which she said included hallucinations, delirium and the spread of blood-borne infections like HIV or Hepatitis C.
David Cameron stung by jellyfish: PM hurt after ignoring advice of locals while on holiday
South Korea ferry: Vice principal rescued from sinking ship found hanged
Oscar Pistorius trial: The case against Oscar Pistorius – and why the prosecution claims his story doesn't add up
Peaches Geldof funeral: Private ceremony to be held at same place as her mother Paula Yates on Easter Monday
Shropshire criminals ‘using unmanned drones and infrared cameras to find illegal cannabis farms’ – and then steal from the growers
The food poverty scandal that shames Britain: Nearly 1m people rely on handouts to eat – and benefit reforms may be to blame
US Navy christens huge $3 billion destroyer ship USS Zumwalt that appears as a fishing boat on enemy radar
Scottish independence: It is the English who should be on their knees, begging the Scots to vote ‘No’
Nigel Farage fatigue? Half of voters ‘immune’ to Ukip’s appeal
Nigel Farage on Have I Got News For You: Ukip leader ridiculed over expenses and party 'fruitcakes'
Nigel Farage: I’m taking on the status quo, and the Establishment’s fighting back
- 1 Are you turning into your dad? The top ten signs you've embraced dad-ism revealed as survey says 38 is age men turn into their father
- 2 Overheard in Waitrose: documenting the chatter in 'Britain's poshest supermarket'
- 3 Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'
- 4 24 people applied for the 'world's toughest job', here are their interviews
- 5 Grace Dent on TV: Game of Thrones has jumped the shark
£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is a company that specializ...
£153.75 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is an innovative outsourcin...
£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company has been providing on site ...
£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: We've been supplying best of breed peopl...