ABOUT THE TRADE ASSOCIATION
The distributors and importers of New Psychoactive Substances (NPS) have joined forces in the Trade Association of NPS Distributors (Dutch: Branchevereniging Van NPS Distributeurs – BVND). The BVND wants to actively contribute to the debate about the proposed amendment to the Opium Act and to present an alternative to the proposed ban for substance groups by the government.
With the proposed amendment to the Opium Act, research chemicals and other legal substances will be brought within the scope of the Opium Act as a precaution through a substance group prohibition, without it being clear which substances are covered and without it being proved whether these substances are harmful to health or the society.
The BVND believes that the substance group prohibition proposed by the government does not fit within the system and objectives of the Opium Act and that the proposal does not contribute in any way to protecting public health.
The substance group ban will soon ban hundreds of substances that have no psychoactive effect, are not harmful to health or even have a beneficial effect. This includes medicines, nutritional supplements and nutritional components.
Moreover, it is absolutely unclear which substances will soon fall within the scope of the Opium Act. Without specialized knowledge, it is nearly impossible to determine whether a particular substance falls within the scope of the new ban. This is contrary to the principle of legality; the rule that nothing should be made a criminal offense without prior penal provision and the associated citizen recognizability. It must be clear to a citizen what is punishable. This principle certainly applies if there are high punishment threats.
The substance groups ban is criminalizing citizens by the same government that says it wants to protect them. Not because of substances that have been shown to be harmful, but as a precaution.
It has been shown that the introduction of a substance group ban does not work, but leads to more drug use, more incidents and more illegal drug trafficking. The introduction of a similar substance groups ban in 2016 in the UK has not led to a decrease, but to an increase in drug use. Users of new psychoactive substances have continued to use these drugs or have switched to other, much more harmful, drugs. Two years after the substance ban was introduced, hard drug use in the UK has increased sharply and more people have died from using impure MDMA, cocaine and opiates. The emergence of new psychoactive substances in the UK has not diminished following the introduction of the substance group ban and street traders have largely taken over the distribution of these substances.
The BVND likes to consult with the government about an alternative to the substance groups ban; an alternative that does justice to the principles of the government and the legal objectives.
The main reason why a substance groups ban does not work, is that a it does not remove the demand for these substances. Throughout human history, people have used psychoactive substances. Different groups of drugs (stimulants, depressants, psychedelics, etc.) are useful in different situations and appeal to different people. The supply of legal substances, such as alcohol, nicotine and caffeine, is insufficient to remove the demand for other psychoactive substances. Moreover, the choice of certain substances and the way they are used strongly depends on the cultural background of users.
A ban is not effective in preventing the use or misuse of substances, but it is expensive for society and harmful to users. Persistent demand creates an illegal market and reinforces organized crime, causing many problems.
The BVND believes that regulating new psychoactive substances is better than banning them. In this way, requirements can be imposed on the production process, the origin, the composition and the quality of substances. Requirements can also be imposed on the environment where and the way in which these resources are sold. This will make people more likely to refrain the use of harmful drugs offered in the illegal circuit and reduce drug-related crime. Regulating the sale of new psychoactive substances leads to less social damage and fewer risks to public health.
There is also plenty of room for such an approach, because a large part of the trade in new psychoactive substances is not (yet) controlled by organized crime. Most online suppliers and wholesalers of new psychoactive substances take great care to ensure that their business operations are as close as possible to those of legitimate chemical suppliers, they pay VAT and they pay tax. The current market for new psychoactive substances is largely self-regulating and presents less danger to users than the sale by criminal street traders.
Instead of a substance groups ban, the government could better consider regulating the existing market by imposing a form of regulations similar to the rules that apply to the sale of other harmful substances, such as alcohol and tobacco. The starting point is to keep the health risks as low as possible and to guarantee the health, safety and well-being of society as a whole as good as possible.
As laid down in the articles of association:
• strengthening and representing the common interests of the members
• promoting safe use of NPS by consumers
• initiating publications and awareness campaigns
• drawing up quality and safety standards
• drawing up a code of conduct
• designing, introducing and maintaining a quality mark
• stimulating knowledge transfer within the industry
In order to achieve the objectives, the BVND wants to cooperate with other parties involved and act as a discussion partner on behalf of the industry.
The BVND board consists of three members. The members elect the board during the General Members’ Meeting as laid down in the association’s statutes. The board is assisted by an Advisory Board.
The board of the BVND consists of the following persons:
- Mr. J.S.E. Janssen (Jochem) – Chairman
- Mr. A. Clatworthy (Ash) – Treasurer
- Mr. R.G.W. Teebay (Richard) – Secretary
The Advisory Board consists of the following persons: