Wednesday, June 24, 2009
In Romania, Legal Status of “Dream Shops” Remains Ambiguous
GALATI, Romania—For more than a year now more and more “dream shops,” (also called “weed shops”) have been popping up in Romania, especially in the city of Galati. Their legal status remains ambiguous.
They sell weed—as in, the regular plants—for smoking, or in the form of pills. It is regarded as an attempt to present a legal alternative to marijuana and ecstasy. The pills are labeled “legal ecstasy,” and are presented by retailers as “psychoactive, relaxant, and euphoric.”
Products are made from a mixture of plants, many of them common, such as sage. Some of the ingredients can even be found on the side of the street (sage, for example, is often cultivated as a medicinal and decorative plant).
While teenagers using the products consider them “cool,” there also appear to be significant downsides . Customers on the company's website leave comments describing the substances as both “hardcore” and legal, but also explaining that the next day it leaves the user “completely sick” and “wasted.” Side effects are not mentioned by the sellers, but there is a warning that used in excess, the products can be toxic and provoke dizziness, stupor and muscle spasms.
An additional warning about the products can also be found on one of the dream shop's websites: “NOT RECOMMENDED FOR HUMAN CONSUMPTION”.
The Romanian Health Ministry and the Office for Consumer Protection has already begun to investigate the shops, and enacted a series of on-site controls. They concluded that present-day laws can't take them off the market.
The Minister for Health, Ion Bazac, said that they discussed the issue with the company in London, where it is registered. The same problem seems to exist there, too. In the end it is the European Union that will have to decide the legal status of the products. “The lack of control for the selling of packaged sage does not seem normal to me,” said Bazac.
While a complete ban is not yet possible for the authorities, a series of fines were still given out in Romania, for “selling euphoric and hallucinogenic substances.”