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Please note that the information on this page is based on the EMCDDA Annual report 2011: the state of the drugs problem in Europe. Most statistical data relate to the year 2009 (or the last year available).


Annual report 2011: the state of the drugs problem in Europe
New drugs and emerging trends

Published: 15 November 2011

Controlling and policing the open sale of new drug

The rapid spread of new substances is pushing Member States to rethink and revise some of their standard responses to the drug problem. In 2010, both Ireland and Poland rapidly passed legislation to limit the open sale of psychoactive substances not controlled under drug laws. This required both countries to work on a careful legal definition of such substances. The Irish law defines them as psychoactive substances, not specifically controlled under existing legislation, that have the capacity to stimulate or depress the central nervous system, resulting in hallucinations, dependence or significant changes to motor function, thinking or behaviour. Medicinal and food products, animal remedies, intoxicating liquor and tobacco are excluded. The Polish law refers to 'substitute drugs', defined as a substance or plant used instead of, or for the same purposes as, a controlled drug, and whose manufacture or placing on the market is not regulated by separate provisions. It makes no specific reference to whether the drug should be considered as harmful.

The Irish law is enforced by the police. High-level police officers can serve a 'prohibition notice' on a seller; if the offender does not comply with this, the courts can issue a 'prohibition order'. Selling, advertising and non-compliance with a 'prohibition order' are punishable by up to five years in prison. By contrast, in Poland, the law is enforced by the state sanitary inspectorate. The penalty for manufacturing substitute drugs or introducing them into circulation is a severe fine, while the penalty for advertising them is up to one year in prison. The state sanitary inspectors may prohibit trade of a 'substitute drug' for up to 18 months in order to assess its safety, if there is a justified suspicion that it might pose a threat to life or health. If the drug is found to be harmful, the distributor is obliged to meet the costs of the assessment. The inspectors also have the right to close premises for up to three months. In both countries, no offence or punishment is set out for the users of these substances.

About the EMCDDA

The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) is the reference point on drugs and drug addiction information in Europe. Inaugurated in Lisbon in 1995, it is one of the EU's decentralised agencies. Read more >>

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Page last updated: Friday, 28 October 2011