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
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.