POTENTIALLY dangerous "legal highs" are being openly sold in the Capital despite the death of a 22-year-old woman who took the "party drug" GBL.
The cannabis substitute "Spice" – which the Home Office is set to ban after ruling it is "very likely to produce harmful effects" – is available in at least two city centre shops for around £20 for three grammes. And mephadrone – supposed to mimic the effects of amphetamines such as cocaine and Ecstasy – is £25 a gramme.
Spice is banned in several countries after being linked to at least one death and medics warn users face risks including fits and over-stimulation of the heart.
The Home Office is expected to make Spice a Class B drug by the end of the year, which means users could face up to five years in prison and dealers up to 14 years.
Both the Apothecary in Clerk Street and Drift Headshop on South Bridge sell Spice. Drift also has mephadrone. Apothecary staff said they did not sell mephadrone as it had "health-related issues". The manager of Drift Headshop could not be reached for comment.
A Scottish Drugs Forum spokesman said: "Keeping on top of the recreational drug culture will always provide a real challenge for the drugs field."
Home Secretary Alan Johnston has announced plans to outlaw Spice along with GBL, which is readily available on the internet. Stephanie Balcarras, 22, from Hamilton, was found dead in a friend's house in Blackpool last Saturday after taking the drug known as "liquid Ecstasy".
The expected ban has split opinion. Steve Rolles, the head of research at drug policy foundation Transform, said: "All of these legal highs have risks attached to taking them. Our feeling is that if you ban them then you create a criminal market for these substances. Where there's demand there will always be supply."
Earlier this month, "legal highs" were banned from every nightclub in Edinburgh following fears they could lead to deaths.
By ALAN McEWEN
November 2, 2009
The Edinburgh News