Can Norway tackle legal highs the Swedish way?

A short report from our President on a new way to tackle legal highs.

31/05/2012

Stig-Erik Sørheim, President of EURAD

The proliferation of synthetic cannabinoids and other so-called "legal highs" has caused considerable concern across Europe. Legal highs have been linked to a number of overdoses and deaths and there is an urgent need to tackle this challenge.

However, current legislation struggles to keep up with the availability of drugs on the internet. If one drug is banned, producers may evade the regulations simply by changing its chemical composition slightly.

Norwegian authorities are currently working on a generic ban on new synthetic drugs. However, since this work involves changes to the Norwegian criminal code, the process is time consuming and there is an urgent need to address the challenge now.

Inspired by an innovative Swedish law, Actis has therefore proposed a new piece of legislation to curb the trade in legal highs in Norway. The Swedish "ForstÖrandelagen" (The Destruction Act) allows the interception and destruction of harmful substances, even if the use or import of the substance has not yet been criminalised.

The destruction act is not part of the criminal code, and seizures have no other repurcussions for the addressee. Even though the number of seizures has increased in Sweden, no-one has challenged the new law.

Under Norwegian law today, if customs services intercept harmful substances, they have no other option than to return it to the sender. The sender may then try to send the parcel again until it finally reaches its addressee. The proposed legislation provides a more flexible response to the threat of legal highs.

A PDF briefing on the Swedish Destruction Act is available here:

Download a fileSwedish Destruction Act(1 7 2 4kb)