UK Opts Out of New EU Psychoactive Substances Proposals
The UK Permanent Representation confirms they are not going to take part in the European Commission's proposals on psychoactive substances.
8th January 2014
Just before Christmas, the UK permanent representative in Brussels confirmed that the UK will not be implementing the forthcoming EC proposals related to regulating psychoactive substances.
The move itself does not constitute a dismissal of the proposals themselves but rather is indicative of the UK's wider discussion to opt out en-masse from all EU criminal justice matters. Currently, the UK government are deciding whether they opt-out of all 135 pre-Lisbon police and criminal justice measures. Such a move would then allow them to re-negotiate entry back into specific pieces of legislation after careful review.
So what does this mean for the European Commission's proposal on psychoactive substances? Well, the letter comes at the time when both the ENVI and LIBE committees are preparing their response to the EC's proposals, so it is even more important now that all LIBE and ENVI members are well briefed on the legislation as one member state backs away from making future amendments.
The main issues to be resolved in the current legislative package are:
1) It is unclear whether the EU proposals will stop member states from taking further action in their own countries if this is needed. This should be clarified. Member states should be allowed to take the action they feel necessary on specific substances, particularly if the substance is affecting their population only or at a higher level than in other member states.
2) The current proposals make it the responsibility of the European Commission to establish the level of risk a psychoactive substance has - either low, moderate or severe. It is our opinion that this decision, which relies on the risk assessment carried out by the EMCDDA, should not be made by the European Commission. Firstly, there should be some form of oversight by the Council, (for example, as an observor in the scientific committee overseeing the risk assessment) or the EMCDDA should make the initial recommendation of risk level, as they have the technical expertise.
3) Where it comes to "low risk" substances, there is the danger that new substances which are hazardous to public health could be classified as low risk due to lack of evidence. We recommend that a new "lack of current evidence" category is considered in the classification process.
4) Polydrug use and contraindications with other substances including alcohol need to be considered as part of the risk assessment process. This should be added to the legislative proposal.
5) The proposal has the potential to highlight other drug demand reduction interventions which governments can use. We urge decision makers to better include the role of drug prevention (universal, selected and indicated measures) as well as treatment for psychoactive drug users (including access to harm reduction, treatment and recovery services) in the explanation which accompanies this legislation.