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Drugnet Europe News from the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction — October–December 2011

Finland and the UK respond to emerging substances

Over the summer of 2011, two more EU countries changed their drug laws in a move to update their systems for controlling harmful new substances.

In Finland, a formal risk-assessment system has been introduced by a change to the 2008 Narcotics Act (valid from 1 June 2011). Now the law includes in its definition of drugs: ‘substances used for the purpose of intoxication that are harmful to health’. These intoxicating properties and harms are evaluated by the Finnish Medicines Agency together with the police, customs and the National Institute for Welfare and Health. The Finnish Medicines Agency sends the results of the evaluation to the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, together with a proposal on whether or not to include the substance in the national drug control list. This proposal is based on whether the substance occurs, or is likely to occur, in Finland. If the substance has an industrial or medical use, the process also allows for representatives of industry to have their say on control measures.

In the UK, following concerns that the formal procedure of control was not fast enough, ‘Temporary Class Drug Orders’ were introduced into the Misuse of Drugs Act on 15 September 2011 (to commence mid-November). Such an order allows the Home Secretary to control a substance as a drug for one year, with the approval of the UK Parliament. The order may be drawn up where a substance is misused or likely to be misused, and where there could be harmful effects. To proceed with such an order, the Home Secretary must consult the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD). However, there is also an ‘urgency procedure’, to consult only the ACMD Chair, if the likelihood of misuse poses an urgent or significant threat to public safety or health.

One-year temporary controls already exist in Germany and the Netherlands. Whereas, in the UK, the orders apply only to supply-related offences, in these two countries they can also apply to acts of personal possession.

Brendan Hughes

Drugnet Europe is the EMCDDA's newsletter launched in September 1996. The newsletter provides regular and succint information on the Centre's projects and activities to a broad readership.

Page last updated: Thursday, 10 November 2011