The European Parliament wants to ban substances suspected of being harmful and have a faster early warning system.
On Tuesday 24 October MEPs voted on an update of existing legislation to ensure that new drugs synthesised from legal components are declared illegal and withdrawn from the market more quickly and are subject to similar penalties throughout the EU. More than a hundreds of these new psychoactive substances appear every year and can have effects similar to illegal drugs such as heroin and cocaine.
The changes, already agreed with the Council, reduce the deadlines for determining the risks posed by new psychoactive substances (NPS) such as the synthetic opioid furanylfentanyl, shortening the whole procedure almost by half.
Parliament wants EU countries to be able to rapidly add these so-called legal highs to their lists of illegal drugs. An early warning system already exists, but MEPs want assessments to be carried out faster so that substances thought to be harmful can be banned.
Spanish EPP member Teresa Jiménez-Becerril, one of the MEPs responsible for the issue, said these drugs are being sold on the internet but that neither the production nor sale of it was being penalised.
Polish EPP member Michal Boni, who wrote a report on an early warning system for legal highs, added: “We also need to fight the organised crime delivering those kind of substances.”
Parliament has already agreed a final version of the proposal with the Council. This includes strengthening the role of Europol as well as simplifying the procedure for declaring these substances dangerous. In addition the production, distribution and sale of the most dangerous new substances by criminal gangs would be punishable with a maximum penalty of at least ten years' prison. This is already the case for other illicit drugs.