Brussels acts to ensure arrival of new, unknown legal highs
Crackdown should mean boost for Chinese synthi-drug labs
The European Commission is promising tighter rules on 'legal highs' despite surveys indicating that most people think such action should be based on medical evidence.
Synthetic drugs - the most infamous was labelled meow-meow by the tabloids - mimic the effects of illegal substances like ecstasy and speed. Sold online or through "head shops" as bath salts or plant food they can be entirely synthetic versions of existing drugs or plant-based products, often cathinone, extracted from khat.
The EC said it found 41 new substances available, compared to 24 last year: so the ban is working well. Since 2005 Brussels has recorded 115 substances. In 2009, 24 were logged and in 2008 another 13.
The Commission currently runs an early-warning system for new substances. It said this was working well but was in danger of being overrun by the number of new products hitting the market.
Eurocrats will consider changes to criminal law, new types of monitoring and aligning drug control with food and drink safety measures. It will report back with options to consider in the autumn.
But designer drug-makers, often churning out product from labs based in China, tweak existing drugs in response to slow-moving legislators. For example, labs have moved away from mephedrone since it was banned.
The moves mean that medical staff who are dealing with patients who have taken designer drugs have little or no information on what the likely long or short-term impact of the substance may be. And it leaves drug users with a steep learning curve as they move onto new substances.
Commission research found use of "traditional" drugs was generally stable. Dealers are keener to sell the "legal" highs because they can make just as much cash with no risk of prison.
The rule change coincides with a European-wide survey into attitudes to drugs which found that 5 per cent of teenagers had tried synthetic drugs. In Ireland this rose to 16 per cent against 8 per cent in the UK.
It found just 26.3 per cent of UK teens supported banning such substances without evidence. Altogether 58.3 per cent of UK teens said they should be banned if they were found to damage health.
Tabloid outrage about mephedrone or meow-meow led then Home Secretary Alan Johnson to ban the substance in March 2010.
Politicians: "You are all idiots. Also, this stuff might be dangerous, so we're just going to ban it for your safety before it's invented."
Public: "Have you asked any medical experts to evaluate just what the dangers are?"
"No, but it isn't taxed like tobacco or alcohol, so it must be dangerous. In fact, we've disbanded the medical and science advisory boards because they said that some of these things weren't actually dangerous, but my public school education tells me otherwise."
"Oh, thanks; have some extra expenses."
Drug policy is properly bonkers
As far as I am concerned, private drug use is a moral matter, not a legal one.
Causing populations to switch from well-known and well-understood substances (ok, with impurities) onto Chinese lottery compounds, where there is no epidemiological data, is an appalling triumph of moral sanctimony over public health responsibility. I am sure in the years to come it will rank up there with giving hormones to homosexuals like Alan Turing.
Consenting adults in private should be allowed to do what the fuck they like, and they do, now, with regard to their sexual exploits, though that wasn't always the case, was it??
Governments and EU lawmakers should keep away from moralising. My contract with them (and its me who fucking pays for them) is to protect me from criminals, i.e. those with intent to cause harm.
And that's what needs changed. Legalising it means legalising the supply chain as well. You won't get rid of every single problem (heck, we still have child-labour sweatshops) but I put it to you that the situation will be "less bad".
It's not as if prohibition is working, is it?