I created this comment to the new dutch addition of substance categories to the Dutch Opium Act.
See here the first chapter, i will upload the complete Document on the government site as soon as its finished.
Lets hope it helps understand the problematic with such laws.
“The emergence of an increase number of novel psychoactive substances (NPS) and their wide availability has led
to public health concerns, which in turn have prompted many countries to pass laws prohibiting whole classes
of compounds, or psychoactive substances in general (Great Britain). While it seems like the obvious answer to
the quick emergence of great numbers of largely unstudied new psychoactive compounds, this approach is in
many ways problematic. The main issues are difficulties in understanding and enforcement of the new laws,
inhibitive effects on the work of scientific institutions and the chemical industry, as well as the general
ineffectiveness of prohibition as a public health tool. Additionally, some of the arguments made by the Dutch
government in favor of passing this law are not very solid, as will be elaborated later.
The new law will place a burden of understanding the legal status of a substance on the owner of said substance.
However, understanding the definition by chemical structure requires a significant level of chemical
understanding, far more than can be expected from an average (even educated) person, or even enforcement
agent. Since the new law also targets possession, it will leave end users of NPS in an ambiguous situation. Also,
enforcement of the law will require every seized drug sample to be fully analyzed and reviewed by an expert,
rather than just compared against a list of scheduled substances. This would increase the workload for forensic
labs and prolong drug offense cases, most of which would be as usual just possession of small amount and thus
of minor public interest.
The categories to be scheduled contain a considerable number of already known and used pharmaceuticals, with
the potential of yielding even more. Despite the lawmakers’ efforts to protect the scientific work by creating
various possibilities of exemptions, prohibition has proven to be a major stumbling block when it came to doing
research. The bureaucratic load imposed on the researchers, as well as the lack of legal sources for the substance
of interest have hampered drug research for decades.
Perhaps the most important issue with scheduling whole categories is that it means joining or continuing the
race of prohibition against the clandestine drug industry. While the lawmakers claim that making drug illegal will
be understood as a warning sign about how dangerous they are, this is not what has been observed to happen.
In recent years it became increasingly clear that prohibition as a preventive measure for public health has not
led to expected results. In many cases countries with the most restrictive drug policies are among those with the
highest drug mortalities and widespread problematic drug use. In contrast, countries that have adopted modern,
science-based approaches, have managed to reduce drug-related deaths and problematic drug use. Those new
policies are meant to reduce harm done by inevitable drug use by treating addiction as a medical rather than a
criminal issue. The measures taken include but are not limited to decriminalization of possession, spreading of
trustworthy information about drugs and drug use, as well as offering help to addicts and allowing drug checking.
In such an environment people can be better educated about the potential risks of the particular drugs they use,
rather than a general and highly ineffective “(illegal) drugs are bad” warning.
The Dutch lawmakers also claim that the new law would be effective in fighting organized drug crime by giving
police and state attorneys the chance to prosecute the manufacturers and vendors of NPS. This argument is
flawed because the NPS market is much smaller in volume and largely separate from the black market for well-
established drugs (e.g. cocaine and MDMA). While most NPS vendors have some form of quality control for their
products and put in efforts to resemble legit chemical suppliers, there is nothing of that sort when it comes to
black market drugs. Especially with heroin and other opioids, fluctuations in the active ingredient content are a
known factor causing potentially lethal overdoses. A broad NPS ban would likely push the same drugs into the
black market to cover the existing demand, thus strengthening organized crime. Therefore, the still legal status
of NPS can be viewed as a chance to try a new approach and regulate NPS production and sales in a similar
fashion as the alcohol and tobacco industry.