Yesterday the European Commission presented a new package proposal with respect to regulating 'legal highs' (new psychoactive substances used as alternatives to illicit drugs). (see our previous post on the increased drugs problem in the EU: Europe's drug problem) The package includes a proposal for a Regulation on new psychoactive substances and a proposal for a Directive amending the Framework Decision 2004/757/JHA on illicit drug trafficking. The Regulation would enable information exchange on, risk assessment of and restriction measures applied to harmful new psychoactive substances. The Directive would facilitate easier and faster notification and registration of new psychoactive substances that pose severe risks, so that the criminal law provisions on illicit drugs could apply to them. (FAQ: tackling psychoactive substances across Europe)
The European Commission responded thus to the growing problem of increased consumption of new psychoactive substances in Europe (their number tripled between 2009 and 2012), which due to online trade easily cross borders in the EU. (European Commission takes decisive action against legal highs) The proposed changes will allow for a ban on a substance to be issued within 10 months (instead of current 2 years). In particularly grave circumstances it will be possible to withdraw substances immediately from the market for one year. Moreover, the European approach to such substances would be more proportional, since the current binary evaluation (either full market restrictions and criminal sanctions apply or not) would be toned with a graduated approach, with the severity of sanctions depending on the substance's danger level.