Ban on le­gal highs could mean prison for traders

An Oban court case heard last week that the West Coast is ‘awash with drugs’ but the po­lice and other agen­cies are join­ing forces with new ini­tia­tives to tackle the prob­lem

The Oban Times - - News - MARTIN LAING mlaing@oban­times.co.uk

SO-CALLED le­gal highs have been banned across the UK fol­low­ing more than 100 deaths.

The blan­ket ban, which be­gan on Thurs­day last week, means the pro­duc­tion, dis­tri­bu­tion, sale and sup­ply of what are oth­er­wise known as new psy­choac­tive sub­stances (NPS) will be crim­i­nal of­fences.

The sub­stances are de­signed to give users the same ef­fect as drugs such as cannabis and co­caine.

Th­ese chem­i­cals were blamed for more than 100 deaths in the UK last year, as well as a rise in vi­o­lent as­saults in prison. Un­der the new law, anyone con­victed of of­fences un­der the Psy­choac­tive Sub­stances Act could be jailed for up to seven years.

Prod­ucts such as nico­tine, al­co­hol, caf­feine, food and medic­i­nal prod­ucts are ex­empt from the Act. The Home Of­fice has also said that “Pop­pers”, or alkyl ni­trates, will not fall un­der the Act.

How­ever, there is con­cern that the ban could mean peo­ple ac­cess­ing NPS from what is known as the ‘dark web’ – a sec­tion of the in­ter­net that does not show up on tra­di­tional search en­gines.

Re­search con­ducted re­cently for the char­ity YMCA showed two-thirds of young peo­ple who cur­rently take the drugs are likely to con­tinue us­ing them de­spite the ban.

Un­der the new ban, au­thor­i­ties will have pow­ers to seize and de­stroy psy­choac­tive sub­stances, as well as carry out searches of peo­ple, premises and ve­hi­cles.

If a per­son is found to be in pos­ses­sion of a NPS in prison, they could face hav­ing up to two years added to their sen­tence.

The leg­is­la­tion has come un­der in­tense scru­tiny since it was first pro­posed by the gov­ern­ment last year.

It had been widely ex­pected that the mea­sures would be rolled out in April but the start date was pushed back.

The Act doesn’t re­place the Mis­use of Drugs Act (1971) so laws around ex­ist­ing il­le­gal (con­trolled) drugs will re­main the same.

An anti-drugs web­site called Know the Score said: ‘NPS mimic the ef­fects of con­trolled drugs such as cannabis and co­caine that are al­ready il­le­gal and can be just as harm­ful. The ease with which they can be pro­duced and sub­se­quently al­tered and their ease of avail­abil­ity through shops on the high street and the in­ter­net has pre­sented a con­stantly evolv­ing chal­lenge.

‘The ex­ist­ing leg­isla­tive frame­work has meant that th­ese sub­stances have re­mained le­gal up to now as they don’t come un­der the tra­di­tional radar of the Mis­use of Drugs Act 1971 which con­trols drugs.

‘This new leg­is­la­tion will give po­lice and other law en­force­ment agen­cies greater pow­ers to tackle the trade in psy­choac­tive sub­stances.

‘Mak­ing the sale and sup­ply of th­ese danger­ous sub­stances un­law­ful, and there­fore less vis­i­ble and avail­able, will help to re­duce the harm caused by them.’

For more in­for­ma­tion about NPS, go to http :// know the score. info/ hel­pand-sup­port. For free and confidential ad­vice and in­for­ma­tion call the Know the Score helpline on 0800 587 5879.

Anyone caught sell­ing psy­choac­tive sub­stances faces seven years in jail.

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