The Liberal Democratic Party and ruling coalition ally Komeito have drawn up a draft amendment to the Pharmaceutical Affairs Law that would allow sales bans on quasi-legal drug products to be applied nationwide rather than just to a single store, according to sources close to the ruling camp.
Currently, when a store is ordered by inspectors to suspend sales of products containing substances designated by the health ministry as “dangerous drugs,” the order applies only to that particular retailer. The amendment proposed would help end that piecemeal approach.
The draft also proposes widening the definition of products that can be pulled from sale to include not just drugs suspected of being designated substances, but also any other product suspected of having equal or greater hallucinogenic or stimulatory effects, the sources said Saturday.
It also provides a new mechanism to order retailers to suspend advertising of such products.
The Democratic Party of Japan and six other opposition parties have collectively submitted their own bill to the House of Representatives to amend the same law. The ruling parties are expected to work with them in adjusting their proposals.
But it may be some time before the envisioned changes can be deliberated, with the Lower House labor committee currently entangled in debate on amending a labor law.
The ruling parties’ draft bill focuses on strengthening drug controls when the health ministry’s narcotics officers carry out on the spot inspections on retailers, allowing the ministry to order substance tests on not just products suspected of containing banned substances, but on any other product suspected of having equal or greater psychotoxic properties, and to suspend the sale of the products pending the test results.
Products suspended from sale would be published in official gazettes, making the orders apply nationwide, unlike under the existing law. The amendment would combat online advertising of the products by allowing the health minister to order Internet service providers to pull the advertising.
The opposition parties’ bill differs in that it provides for bans on production and sale of products if tests show them to have dangerous mind-altering effects, regardless of whether the substances have already been banned.
The issue of so-called loophole drugs — which are technically legal but potentially harmful — has gained public attention after a series of traffic accidents involving drivers thought to have used them. A man was indicted on charges of driving a car into pedestrians in Tokyo’s Ikebukuro district on June 24 under the influence of such a drug. One woman was killed and six others were injured.