Legal high drugs to be banned immediately
New 'legal high' party drugs will be banned immediately for 12 months under new Home Office powers to halt their escalating use among young people.
By Christopher Hope, Whitehall Editor
Published: 7:00AM BST 20 Aug 2010
Ministers have become highly concerned about the increasing popularity of so-called legal high substances, and have been frustrated by their inability to halt their arrival and sale in the UK.
This week the legal high substance Ivory Wave was blamed for the death of chef Michael Bishton, 24, whose body was found in the sea in Whitecliff Bay, near Bembridge, Isle of Wight, on Saturday.
Currently the Home Office’s advisers on the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs have to consider the danger of a drug before it can be banned.
However, this process is seen as too unwieldy. Instead, under the changes, ministers will be able to ban legal high drugs temporarily, while the advisory council meets to discuss a permanent ban.
Tougher penalties will also be brought in, with suppliers facing 14 years in prison and an unlimited fine if they are caught with a legal high substance which has been banned temporarily.
However there will no penalties for anyone caught in possession to “prevent the unnecessary criminalisation of the young”, the Home Office said.
James Brokenshire, the Crime Prevention minister, said: “The drugs market is changing and we need to adapt current laws to allow us to act more quickly.
“The temporary ban allows us to act straight away to stop new substances gaining a foothold in the market and help us tackle unscrupulous drug dealers trying to get round the law by peddling dangerous chemicals to young people.
“Anyone tempted to try a legal high must understand it is not safe or sensible to take a substance when you do not know what it is or what is in it - especially when some are claimed to be pond cleaner or bath salts.”
The new powers are expected to be in place by the end of the year, when an amendment is tabled in Parliament to the 1971 Misuse of Drugs Act.
Under the proposals, police will be able to confiscate suspected substances and the UK Border Agency will seize shipments entering the country.
Earlier this month it emerged that six people were admitted to hospital in Cumbria after it was believed they had used the latest legal high drug Ivory Wave.
The drug - openly on sale for £15 a packet and labelled as "soothing" bath salts – is said to be more dangerous than mephedrone, known as "miaow miaow".
That drug, which was sold as “plant food”, was banned in April after it was linked to up to 26 deaths.
Tim Hollis, the lead on drugs policy at the Association of Chief Police Officers, said it welcomed plans to introduce temporary bans on legal highs.
He said: “All too often people think that just because a product is legal, it is safe. However the make-up of these substances is often unknown and can be dangerous.
“The emphasis is clearly on public safety. Police will continue to focus our enforcement on those who import and deal in these drugs. We also look forward to contributing to the Government’s drugs policy consultation.”
Giving evidence to the Home Affairs Select Committee last month, Home Secretary Theresa May said legal highs were the "next battle" in the fight against drugs
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