Chinese Drug Makers Skirt Mephedrone Ban
Two months after Britain banned the party drug mephedrone, Sky News has learnt factories in China are making a host of new drugs to skirt UK laws.
Before mephedrone was scheduled as a Class B drug in April, it was openly sold online by dealers who offered express home delivery.
In internet chat rooms, users praised its effects which they described as similar to the drug ecstasy.
But now the same Chinese companies that used to manufacture mephedrone have come up with a raft of new chemical compounds that are not covered by British law.
Filming secretly and posing as customers, a Sky News crew visited the offices of Chemchallenger Biotech in Shanghai. They were given a free sample of a new "legal high" said to mirror the effects of mephedrone.
"Our British clients really like this one" said the company's director, Jacky Wu. He then offered to sell the crew up to 100kg of the drug, and said it could be sent to the UK by courier.
View attachment 15096 Mr Wu said his company "only operates within the law". But to avoid hold-ups at British customs he said he would mislabel the drug as a more commonly known chemical.
His operation is on an industrial scale. During a tour of his factory, Mr Wu showed off a rabbit warren of labs where workers toiled in white coats over vats of colourful substances.
He claimed one of them was a new form of chemical cannabis that would also be legal if sold on the street in Britain.
Before the ban on mephedrone, some experts warned it would be useless in the face of Chinese chemical companies who would simply come up with alternative drugs.
Mr Wu confirmed this, saying "there are thousands of these substances. There are new ones coming out all the time."
View attachment 15097 Though he graduated in chemistry from a prestigious Chinese university, Mr Wu was less forthcoming on the effects of his new compounds. "That's still being tested," he said. "We just make them."
Dozens of Chinese companies are in the same line of business. A representative from another laboratory told Sky News he had a distributor in London who supplied smaller dealers. He also openly admitted that the new generation of "legal highs" is dangerous.
"I was the first one to sell this on the market. But now many people don't like it," he said. "It's not good. It's too strong. Send you to hospital. Make you feel very ill."
The problem, say scientists, is that nobody knows what effect the new chemical drugs have on the body and the brain. One early forerunner to the current crop of synthetic drugs - a substance known as MPTP - caused dozens of people to develop irreversible symptoms identical to Parkinson's Disease.
***We are planning to introduce a system of temporary bans for new emerging 'legal highs'. Temporary bans will allow us to make substances illegal while we seek full scientific advice.
Home Office statement***
Under similar legislation in Germany and the US, drugs can be banned on the presumption that they are dangerous rather than waiting for the results of a lengthy investigation.
In response to the Sky News investigation the Home Office announced it would be closing down the loophole on the new legal drugs that were emerging on the market.
A Home Office spokesman said: "We are planning to introduce a system of temporary bans for new emerging 'legal highs'. Temporary bans will allow us to make substances illegal while we seek full scientific advice."
Speaking on Sky News the former government chief drugs adviser Professor David Nutt said that banning the drugs would never work.
He suggested a controlled use of the substances was more effective, saying: "some regulated access, along the coffee shop model for cannabis in the Netherlands I think will have to come."
Mephedrone hit the headlines in March after the drug was linked to the deaths of two teenagers in Scunthorpe.
However, post mortems revealed no trace of the chemical in the blood of Louis Wainwright, 18, and Nicholas Smith, 19.
The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) recommended a ban in March but the decision was criticised for being politically rather than scientifically driven.
Some drug campaigners believe that education on the risks of so-called legal highs would be a more effective way of combating the new generation of drugs.
12:16pm UK, Wednesday June 09, 2010
Holly Williams, China correspondent
there are a couple of videos imbedded in the news story linked above
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Chinese Drug Makers Skirt Mephedrone Ban