Drug scheduling: Forensic challenges in implementing a generic classification system.

Organized by the Governments of Brazil, Singapore and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Laboratory and Scientific Section.

Luiz Beggiora – SENAD (Brazil): There has been high production of synthetic drugs at a global level and it very difficult to keep track of and control. An inter-ministerial group was created in Brazil to look into the challenges of implementing generic classification of drug scheduling.

Renata Souza – ANVISA (Brazil): Process for defining general classifications – ANVISA – schedule substances and plants on drug lists to establish control levels and in forensic labs we identify substances and products that have been seized. In 2015 an inter-institutional group made up of Ministry of health and ministry of justice and public security amongst others. The main NPS identified in Brazil is synthetic cathinones. We started to adopt generic classification for synthetic cannabinoids and then in 2017 synthetic cathinones. There is a need to innovate strategies to tack the drug problem and to classify by chemical groups. Forensic challenges – faced resistance from forensic experts as it requires more intellectual efforts to produce forensic reports and there are differences in capacity between labs, also difficulty in accessing materials – importation is required that comes at a high cost.  Continuous training is also needed. To improve understanding, we keep all information on our website for all forensic experts to access, we also offer orientation guides in synthetic cathinones and cannabinoids on generic classification. We promote training for forensic specialists and raise awareness of the importance of generic classification.

Lauren Comber – Home Office (UK): Misuse of drugs act which is based on the full assessment of harms and proof of chemical structure. In 2016 we introduced the psychoactive substances act which captures substances not yet understood and essentially puts a blanket ban on any new drug that can be seen to cause psychoactive effects.

Bukola Ojo Dstl (UK): PSA – covers substances by virtue of their psychoactive properties not chemical structure and added a complexity to the normal forensic testing process. Supporting the legislation meant bringing together an expert panel and in-vitro testing with interpretation and statements by experts – we found it was not suitable for all substances and then the courts determine admissibility of evidence. Forensic Process – PSA – 1. Sample sent to FSP, if not under MDA, FSP contacts dstl and HO, then drug analysis is sent to FSP and a statement is issued to enforcement agencies for prosecution proceedings.

Lauren Comber – Home Office (UK): This is a very wide piece of legislation and undertook the commitment to review the act last year. most of our main aims had been achieved as open sale had been eliminated – in head shops and online. Also saw a decrease in use of NPS from 0.8% to 0.4%. we see a continued use amongst homeless pop and prison pop however.

Angeline Yap – HSA (Singapore): over 8000 NPS have been detected worldwide and can come in many different physical forms – they also evolve at a high rate. It is incredibly hard to differentiate between different structural isomers. How can we improve differentiation? Enlarge technical ability and improve knowledge and staff competency in forensic laboratories, collaboration between Universities, regional and international forensic labs and via other networks, integration. If we do not have the correct equipment, despite knowledge levels, we cannot differentiate between different drug isomers and much of the instruments are very expensive which requires better infrastructure and funding from governments. We need to engage our stakeholders – forensic scientists, law enforcement and judges. We must educate both judges and law enforcement officers, as well as legislators – there needs to be intersectional discussion between all services.

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