European parliament backs new rules on legal highs


New regulations that will make it easier to ban legal highs have been backed by the European parliament. The new rules proposed by the European commission could cut the time it takes to ban new psychoactive substances (NPSs) from over two years to 10 months, or four months in serious cases. They would also make it possible to temporarily ban the sale of NSPs for a year while safety tests are carried out – these short term bans could be imposed in just a few weeks.

The commission also plans to introduce a graduated system where the most harmful substances can be banned outright, while ones deemed to pose a ‘moderate’ risk are subject to restrictions. It says this could encourage manufacturers to make new drugs safer, and enable the EU to take action on legal highs that have legitimate uses, such as the epilepsy drug Pregabalin.

The use of NPSs worldwide is increasing, and bans can be ineffective, particularly when they take months or years to introduce. Critics warn that bans are ineffective as soon as one NSP is banned another pops up to take its place. The UK government has also been critical of the proposed regulations, and chose to opt out earlier this year, saying the plan could interfere with its own efforts to tackle NSPs.

The commission's proposal still needs approval by the EU Member States in Council before it will come into effect.


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