Police plan clamp down on shops accused of glamorising drug use
Police are to launch a crack down on retailers who display drug-related paraphernalia, because of fears they are glamorising abuse of illegal substances.
The businesses, known as "head shops", operate entirely within the law but the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) is devising new rules on how police and local councils can work together to combat "community concerns" about the stores.
The guidelines are expected to see police and trading standards officers demanding changes to the way stores operate, and could even lead to the authorities demanding that items are taken off display.
Head shops, which first surfaced in the 1960s, offer a range of products linked with illegal drug-taking such as hookahs, "bongs" or water pipes, scales for weighing drugs and machines to grind substances such as herbal cannabis.
Many also offer "legal alternatives" to cannabis, as well as T-shirts and other products bearing images of cannabis leaves or marijuana cigarettes and which depict drug use in a positive light.
Tim Hollis, Acpo drugs spokesman and chief constable of Humberside, said: "There are concerns that head shops make drugs seem legal. It is not illegal for these shops to exist and there are things local authorities and the police can do.
"It is not as simple as making them illegal, but we will be producing good practice guidelines to give ideas on how to solve the problems, because the shops are causing concern for communities."
An Acpo spokeswoman declined to give any further details of how the guidelines will operate, or what powers officers propose to use against businesses whose activities are not breaking the law.
Neighbourhood police teams are expected to play a key role in the new project, working with council departments and other agencies to decide which shops to target.
The National Policing Improvement Agency has set up a team which is developing the new document.
A spokesman for the agency said: "The NPIA is working on guidance for Acpo which is due to be released to forces around March of this year."
# David Barrett
# January 4, 2009