Police and health officials swoop on Camden Town’s stores that sell ‘drugs paraphernalia’
A MAJOR operation by police and drugs enforcement agencies swooped on Camden Town’s famous “head shops” yesterday (Wednesday) afternoon.
In a high-profile – and highly politicised – operation, police officers and inspectors from the Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Authority (MHRA) raided 20 shops in Camden High Street searching for illegal or unlicensed drugs including club scene favourites such as “Funk Pills”, “London Underground” and “BZP” – or Benzylpiperazine.
For decades the shops have sold waterpipes, large cigarette papers, and a range of hemp-branded goods that police consider “drugs paraphernalia” as well as so-called “legal highs” – substances on the margins of the law, like magic mushrooms.
Sgt Neil Payn said: “The drug market is fuelled by the large number of head shops in Camden. These sell paraphernalia including pipes, seeds, growing equipment, legal highs and magic mushrooms. [The raid] is entirely proportionate to the problem we’re dealing with – it’s a large-scale problem in Camden, to prevent the issues of drugs.”
At least 30 retailers cash in on Camden’s reputation and the shops have long been a source of irritation and embarrassment to the police and the council, which has pledged to break what it calls the high street’s “aggressive cannabis market”.
The medical authorities have come under pressure from government to crack down on drugs produced to simulate banned narcotics.
Nimo Ahmed, Head of Intelligence at MHRA, said: “It’s a misconception that because these types of drugs are not Class A, like cocaine or heroin, they must be legal. These drugs have not been assessed in any scientific way and could be detrimental to the health of a user.”
But with just one arrest and a handful of products seized – none obviously illegal – traders were complaining last night of a “mob-handed” raid, driven by a police desire to please Home Office masters during National Tackling Drugs Week.
“You would think they would write us a letter telling us that they think some of our products are illegal, like they would any other shopkeeper,” said one, who asked not to be named. “We are not drug dealers.”
By Paul Keilthy
June 11, 2009
Camden New Journal