Sophie Claudet, euronews:
Point of view
"When we identify substances which cause particular harm we can take measures to assess the risks and potentially that can lead to EU-wide controls"
“So, the UK is planning to enforce a ban on legal
highs sometime in May, but we’ve seen in the Republic of Ireland the ban has not deterred users, so what’s the point of a ban altogether?”
Andrew Cunningham, EMCDDA Supply Reduction and New drugs Unit:
“Well, I think most of the time when countries that introduce legislation of this type, like in Ireland, like in Poland before, the main point is to remove the new psychoactive substances. This time we’re talking about taking the legal high products from open sale, removing them from shops and open online sale, so that people can’t then just go in off the street into a shop and buy psychoactive substances.”
“You’re saying that at least a ban has forced these
shops, these so-called “head shops”, to close?”
“Not necessarily to close but certainly to remove these products from their shelves, which in terms of reducing the harm may have a profound impact. You mentioned that it hasn’t deterred users in the Irish model, but there has been no formal evaluation of the Irish drug law to say that is what has happened there.”
“We saw in our story in Germany that it is possible to crack down on labs. How can law enforcement agencies prevent so-called legal highs to be sold on the internet? Is it a lost battle?”
“It depends on the legal situation and the legislative framework that’s available to the police at the time. For example, if a particular substance is not controlled in one country then they will find it very, very difficult if another country says ‘We want you to stop your internet shop from selling those products to my country’, because if the drug is not controlled then law enforcement is powerless to do anything about it.
Now, at a European level we have what we call the early-warning system on new psychoactive substances, and one of the points of this system is to exchange information among the European member states, and when we identify substances which cause particular harm we can take measures to assess the risks and potentially that can lead to EU-wide controls on that particular substance.
In those circumstances that can lead to a level playing field where law enforcement agencies can exchange data, they can take joint initiatives…”
“Even on the internet?”
“Yes, against the online vendors, even on the internet, and there are many examples of international efforts where that has worked.”