LONDON—Suppliers of so-called “legal high” drugs should be required to prove that their products are safe before entering the market, recommends the U.K. government’s drug advisory body.
The current legislation is struggling to handle the growing number of potentially harmful drugs, noted the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) in a report published Tuesday.
According to the report, the majority of these products are legally shipped from China and sold on the Internet by students and others wanting to make a quick buck.
Roger Howard, chief executive of the independent think tank UK Drug Policy Commission, welcomed the ACMD report, which recommends tweaking the 1971 Misuse of Drugs Act and using consumer protection regulation to control the influx of new substances.
“The speed at which drugs are now being developed makes it impossible for policymakers and enforcement agencies to be on top of the market,” Howard said in a statement.
“Rather than trying to hold back this tidal wave with outdated tools, we should recognize that not all drugs are equally harmful. Those who seek to sell new drugs should have to prove their safety, rather than the government having to prove otherwise,” Howard noted.
“We have rapidly growing numbers of psychoactive drugs on the market, and it’s becoming increasingly difficult for the police to identify the different drugs they’re finding. Controlling even more drugs through the drugs laws doesn’t do anything to help that nor to prevent harms that might emerge,” he concluded.
The current regulation of new drugs and legal highs affords new substances a default legal status, as long as they do not belong to the list of illegal drugs specified in the drug legislation.
Primarily From China
The growth of the legal high market was highlighted by the widespread use of mephedrone, also known as Meow Meow, a couple of years ago. The substance was being sold on the Internet as a plant food but widely used as a drug of choice. The ACMD recommended it to be classified as a Class B drug.
Last year, a new legal high called Ivory Wave was deemed by a coroner to have been a “strong contributory factor” in the death of a 24-year-old man.
The ACMD report says that these substances are primarily imported from China via air freight and post.
“There is a significant challenge for border agencies in identifying the true nature of the substances that are presented as ‘white powders’ and declared at importation as a variety of chemicals—many of which are wrongly described.
“Some of the materials are banned, some subject to licensing, some are known as psychoactive substances (and legal), and some are not known and may or may not be novel psychoactive substances of misuse in the future,” states the report.
New Type of ‘Dealer’
According to the report, the market for these substances has spawned a new type of “dealers”—entrepreneurs who see a business opportunity while the substance remains legal.
“This has meant that once a substance has entered the drug scene, the market can be very quickly saturated with the new drug,” states the ACMD report.
“Many people importing these new substances appear to have had no previous involvement in the illicit drug trade and are just in it to make a quick buck. They have included students who have set up websites to supply nationally and who also supply the local student population,” notes the report.
Comment by mrsolearyscow: Hmmm. The above article seems quite tolerant compared to the 'legal highs should be banned in the UK' articles I saw only a few days ago.
‘Legal Highs’ Need Proof of Safety, Says UK Drug Council