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Malta: Legal notice will schedule mephedrone, not all designer drugs

By Balzafire, Aug 21, 2010 | Updated: Aug 21, 2010 | |
  1. Balzafire
    Amendments to the Dangerous Drugs Ordinance will not be covering all designer drugs but scheduling mephedrone, known on the streets as miaow miaow, and its derivatives, The Malta Independent has learnt.

    A legal notice is expected over the next couple of weeks to schedule the drug. While up until June, 4.264kg of the substance, in the form of a yellowish powder, had been seized for research and 13 people had been questioned over its possession, no charges could be filed. Some 40 to 50 per cent of drug users at parties were using mephedrone, according to the head of the police anti-drug squad, Neil Harrison.

    On Thursday, The Malta Independent reported that legal amendments against the designer drug mephedrone have not been enacted, although new drugs, some of which are said to be three times stronger than cocaine, are emerging as the new ‘in thing’. Sold over the internet as plant food, mephedrone has been associated with a number of deaths and has so far been banned in a good number of countries including the UK, Israel, Denmark, Norway and Sweden.

    The drug was banned in the UK in April but shortly afterwards, new drugs, mostly synthetic chemicals, emerged and started being advertised across the web as ‘miaow replacements’. Among these is the drug marketed as bath salts – whose name this newspaper is withholding. These drugs are equally available to Maltese party goers as to the British and Australians over the internet and are sold for cheap prices as is the case with mephedrone.

    Contacted by this newspaper, Public Health director-general Ray Busuttil said the draft legal notice will be covering mephedrone but the authorities would need to look deeper into emerging designer drugs because existing legislation would not necessarily cover against their importation and use.

    Normally the police refer new drugs to be included in legislation and “if urgent” the necessary amendments would be seen to immediately, he said. Although more pertinent questions could not be asked over the past days, this answer indicates that local health authorities are not proactively researching into new substances and their chemical composition.

    While mephedrone has been on the party scene at least since Christmas, the amendment to Maltese legislation seems to have been lost in bureaucratic processes. Back in June, Mr Harrison was hopeful that a decision on whether mephedrone was already covered by legislation and if not, to be included, was to be reached “in the new few weeks”.

    Over a month ago, sections of the media said mephedrone and all similar products will be made illegal in the coming weeks, giving the impression that more designer drugs of various compositions will be scheduled.

    Sources said amendments have taken so long to be drafted because the authorities were doing their best to ensure the ban does not prompt a series of designer drugs to enter the country. But sooner or later this is thought will happen.

    Dr Busuttil told this newspaper this week, he believed the mephedrone amendment will be in place within two to three weeks. The draft legal notice needs the Prime Minister’s signature to come into force. While Dr Busuttil was aware the Prime Minister will not be back in office before next week, he was not sure at which part of the process the document stood.

    Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the Justice and Home Affairs Ministry this week confirmed the legal notice will schedule mephedrone and its derivatives. However its full text will only be available once published in the Government Gazette.

    by Annaliza Borg
    21 August 2010


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