Government impose strict controls on 36 ecstasy-type substances
Proposals to clamp down on 36 ecstasy-type substances were contained in a consultation letter issued by the Home Office. The 36 substances are, like ecstasy, derived from phenethylamine. The proposals would bring these 'designer drugs' under the control of the Misuse of Drugs legislation which would allow courts to impose heavy penalties for manufacture, dealing and possession.
Home Office Minister George Howarth said:
"We all know the dangers of ecstasy and the Government has a responsibility to do all it can to prevent more of these types of substances from being launched onto the illicit market. Strict controls are essential to prevent the misuse of these ecstasy-type substances. They will provide the enforcement authorities with the tools they need to fight the drugs problem in tandem with prevention and treatment agencies. Although there is little evidence of their misuse in UK, these measures will slam the stable door firmly shut before the horse has bolted."
Of the 36, all but one would become Class A drugs: unlawful possession would attract a maximum penalty of seven years or an unlimited fine or both; supply would attract life imprisonment or an unlimited fine or both; and included in Schedule 1 to the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 1985: production, supply and possession would be unlawful except for the purposes of research or other special purposes carried out under licence of the Secretary of State.
Substance a - methylphenethylhydroxylamine (or N-hydroxyamphetamine) would become a Class B drug: unlawful possession would attract a maximum penalty of five years or an unlimited fine or both, unlawful production and supply would attract fourteen years or an unlimited fine or both, and included in Schedule 2 to the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 1985: licences would be required by persons not already authorised by the Regulations to possess, supply or produce Schedule 2 drugs; licences would also be required for import and export; the prescription writing (including handwriting), full record-keeping, and destruction requirements would all need to be met; and the safe storage requirements would apply.
There is some evidence that these 'designer drugs' are being produced for the illicit drugs market and there have been a number of police seizures in the UK and overseas. While they do not yet seem to be extensively misused in the UK, the Government's independent advisory body, the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, considered them 'capable of having harmful effects sufficient to constitute a social problem' (one of the criterion under the Misuse of Drugs Act) and that they warranted control.
MDMA or ecstasy has been controlled under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 as a Class A drug since 1977 and is covered by a generic definition in the Act which also controls approximately 144 other identified substances with a similar chemical structure. However, these 36 substances are not covered by this generic definition and the Government proposes to control them individually by name.
The consultation letter also proposes that the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 1985 should be consolidated - they have been amended eight times and currently take the form of nine separate documents which makes them unwieldy to use.
The 36 substances are:-
7) Cyclopropylmethyl(a-methyl-3,4 methylenedioxyphenethyl)amine
36) a-methylphenethylhydroxylamine (also known as N-
Home Office Press Release 323/98 12 August 1998