The EU has reacted to serious concerns over the use of the synthetic cannabinoid MDMB-CHMICA, the substance used in many synthetic cannabinoid brands such as ‘black mamba’, by deciding to subject it to ‘control measures’ throughout the Union.
The decision was adopted in the final stage of the three-step legal procedure designed to respond to potentially threatening new psychoactive substances (NPS) available on the market. The substance in question has been raising health concerns in Europe after harmful effects related to its use were reported by the Member States through the EU Early Warning System (EWS).
The decision is based on the findings of a formal risk assessment of the drug, conducted by the extended European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) Scientific Committee in July 2016, with the participation of additional experts from the EU Member States, European Commission, Europol and the European Medicines Agency. The risk assessment report assessed the health and social risks of the drug, as well as international trafficking and the involvement of organised crime. It concluded that the potency of MDMB-CHMICA and the highly variable amounts of the compound encountered in herbal products constitute a serious risk of acute toxicity.
MDMB-CHMICA is the first synthetic cannabinoid receptor agonist to be risk-assessed by the EMCDDA. It was first reported to the EU Early Warning System in 2014. It is sold as a ‘legal’ replacement for cannabis by chemical companies and online retail shops in a variety of forms (e.g. as a powder or as commercially branded ‘legal high’ products).
As of July 2016, the drug had been detected in 23 EU Member States, Turkey and Norway and had been analytically identified in samples taken from 25 intoxicated patients and 28 deceased. In 12 of the deaths, MDMB-CHMICA was reported as, either the cause of, or likely to have contributed to, the death. Recognising the threats posed by this substance, 16 EU Member States plus Turkey have already taken steps to control it under national legislation. Due to the Psychoactive Substances Act 2016, MDMB-CHMICA is already controlled in the UK due to the nature of the blanket ban.
The decision on subjecting this substance to control measures will enter into force the day after its publication in the Official Journal of the European Union. Member States will then have one year to introduce the controls into national legislation.