At the beginning of 2012, Austria and Hungary changed their legal frameworks to respond more promptly to the supply of harmful new psychoactive substances. The new frameworks prohibit the unauthorised sale of individual or groups of substances by rapidly assessing and including them on lists or schedules.
In Austria, the new ‘Act on new psychoactive substances’ entered into force on 1 January. This act controls substances listed in a regulation by the Minister for Health, which are not subject to the 1961 or 1971 UN drug conventions. Substances are only listed in the regulation if they have the potential for ‘psychoactive effects’ (on the human central nervous system, such as hallucinations or disturbances in motor functions, perception, behaviour). Listed substances are also likely to be abused by certain sections of society and pose a potential threat to consumer health.
Unauthorised supply is considered a crime if the supplier aims to benefit and intends that the product be used for its psychoactive effects. Maximum penalties are two years’ imprisonment, rising significantly if supply results in serious injury or death. Under the new law, seizure of any amount of substance is possible even when there is no suspicion of supply.
In Hungary, Government Decree 66/2012 took effect from 3 April. This created a Schedule C to existing legislation listing drugs appearing on the market. To be included on the schedule, the substance will have undergone a formalised rapid assessment which must reach two conclusions. Firstly, the substance can affect the central nervous system, and therefore pose as serious a threat to public health as the substances listed in the drug conventions, and secondly, the substance has no therapeutic use. Within one year of being placed on Schedule C, the drug must be risk-assessed, resulting in full drug control or removal from the schedule. However, compound groups will remain on the schedule as long as any substance in the group fulfils the above requirements. A new section of the Criminal Code (s.283/B) states that offering or distribution, but not possession, of such substances is punishable by up to three years in prison.
Brendan Hughes, Raphael Bayer, Agnes Port
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.