EU Commission Proposes New Legislation for Synthetic Drugs

EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding talked today about the situation of synthetic drugs in the EU. This was after the European Commission released the communication  “Towards a stronger European response to drugs” She talked about the current situation in Europe saying that “every hour one European dies from drug overdose” and the need to counter the threat posed by synthetic drugs of which she said “41 new substances” additional substances were added last year. Justice Commissioner Vivaine Reding’s press conference tied in with the Commissions recently released communication the aim of which mainly focused around two things the firstly tackling of synthetic drugs and secondly the reduction of drug trafficking within Europe.

The Lisbon treaty as the Justice Commissioner pointed out has helped strengthen to EU response especially with the commission’s aim of having a more standardised approach to drug laws. The treaty of Lisbon defines “drug trafficking as serious crime with a cross border dimension” this allows directives from the EU creating minimum rules when it comes to the definition of offences and sanctions. The EU has existing laws on drug trafficking (Framework Decision 2004/757/JHA) though the commission in the communication openly admits that it has its weakness with hardly any national alignment in the fight against drug trafficking.

The commission has three aims on drug trafficking firstly the prevention of major cross-border drug trafficking by “exploring minimum common aggravating or mitigating circumstances” secondly and improved definition of offences and sanctions across the EU and finally the introduction of stronger reporting obligations. National alignment of drug trafficking laws is also important for the commission the EU in the communication hinted that they now wanted better alignment of drug trafficking laws between EU countries by saying that common rules can now be strengthen as “the Lisbon
Treaty now enables a legal and political strengthening of this important legal instrument.”

Synthetic drugs and the emergence of new drugs was a major sticking point in the Justice Commissioners press conference. She complained about the length of time it takes to have an European wide drug ban with one example she gave being Mephedrone where she said it took her one and a half years to get it banned EU wide and that was too much. She wants there to be swifter action EU wide when it comes to synthetic drugs especially due to the rapid nature of new synthetic drugs being brought to market.

On the issue of synthetic drugs the commission thinks that there is a need to have more standardized laws across Europe.  They would also like swifter responses including a “temporary bans on substances that pose immediate risks.” Further enhanced monitoring would also be extended in order to increase detection of new substances. In her press conference the Justice Commissioner mentioned that they were exploring ways of banning groups of drugs or chemicals she also talked about the need to control precursors.

The communication also talks about developing a minimum quality standard with an aim to improve the “effectiveness of drug prevention, treatment and harm reduction in the EU.” This is not something which is a particularly new thing it was after all part of the EU Drug Action plan 2009-2012. The commission does intend to submit a second report on the implementation of the 2003 recommendations on harm reduction.

Legislation for the commissions plans are according to the Justice Commissioner to be “on the table in the next few months”. As the Justice Commissioner said the commission wants “bold action to start now” the commission wants “swift, strong and effective EU

Action.” The legislation which the commission will be bringing forward include revisions of the council framework decision on drug trafficking which the communication said currently had weaknesses, proposals on drug precursors, proposals on confiscation, recovery of criminal assets, new measure to combat money laundering and possibly legislation allowing temporary bans of substances.