Pubs pledge crackdown on legal highs
'LEGAL highs' are to be banned in a crackdown by Manx pubs and clubs.
Anyone suspected of possessing drugs such a mephedrone will be ejected from licensed premises — and they will face the prospect of an unlimited Island-wide ban.
Escalating abuse of legal highs including mephedrone — sold on the internet as 'plant food' and known by various names including 'miaow miaow' and MCAT — was described in the House of Keys earlier this month as a 'madness' which was 'poisoning' the Island's young people.
Home Affairs Minister Adrian Earnshaw MHK said that drug treatment and support agencies had reported 22 cases of mephedrone use between June and October.
But Mr Earnshaw held back from banning such substances by law, insisting that making them illegal wasn't always the answer and education was the best approach.
But now licensed premises have announced they will adopt a zero tolerance policy. The move follows a meeting of the Manx Entertainment and Nightclub Association, Pubwatch and Offwatch.
Posters are being published, with the assistance of the Police Alcohol Unit, and will soon be displayed in all bars advising customers of the new policy.
MENA spokesman Steve Harding said: 'This is a problem that we think could escalate rapidly over the next few months and we wanted to send out a clear message that there will be zero tolerance for people on licensed premises in possession of such substances.
'There's a perception that it's OK, but we will not allow these substances to be used on our premises because they are dangerous to people's health and can result in customers' evenings being ruined.
'That means anyone in possession of such substances can expect the police to be called. And if they have been caught in possession, they will potentially face an all-Island ban.'
Pubwatch chairman Steve McDowell added: 'Our problem is we can't tell the difference between legal and illegal substances so we will report anyone with suspicious substances to the police, and that's what the posters will advise people about.
'People bringing suspicious substances into licensed premises will be instantly banned by that licensee and will then be put forward for an Island-wide ban from all licensed premises.
'We have joined forces across all the Island's licensed premises as an extension of the all-Island Pubwatch announced previously. It means that a ban from one location could mean a ban across all licensed premises on the Isle of Man.
'We don't want to ban people from our premises, we just want to ensure responsible behaviour.'
The licensees' zero tolerance approach was welcomed by Home Affairs Minister Adrian Earnshaw, who said: 'This is commendable action by licensees who can put into place whatever measures they need to ensure their establishments are well run and safe.'
He said officers from the departments of Home Affairs, Education, Health and Social Security including Public Health, Customs and Excise and the Attorney General's Chambers have set up a strategic working group that is meeting weekly to look at options to combat what he described as 'this current threat to the community' in both the short and longer term.
'There is a real risk that someone could be seriously hurt or even die as a result of these substances. They are highly dangerous if consumed, especially if mixed with alcohol,' Mr Earnshaw added.
Information is being given to students through Island secondary schools to discourage them from jeopardizing their health by taking mephedrone, also known as Space E, Meph, Drone, MCAT, meow and 4-MMC.
Head of the police alcohol unit Sergeant Steve Maddocks said: 'The police fully support licensees in their zero tolerance approach to these substances.
'Mephedrone and other similar substances can be potentially harmful to anyone taking them especially if they also drink alcohol. Police fully support the action and will be working closely with them to enforce their policy.'
10 December 2009
By ADRIAN DARBYSHIRE