Swifter Government action is needed to tackle the problems posed by so called legal highs, a Home Office minister has said.
Powers for year-long bans that can be put in place quickly will help take new substances off the market while a comprehensive review of their potential harm is carried out, Crime Prevention Minister James Brokenshire said.
It comes after the legal high 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. His girlfriend Sammy Betts, 21, said he had started to become paranoid at his mother's home after taking the substance.
Ivory Wave is sold legally for about £15 a packet and is advertised as relaxing bath salts. But the product has become popular as a legal alternative to illicit drugs.
Outlining plans to introduce the temporary bans by the end of next year, Mr Brokenshire 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."
But he added that 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 ban will send a clear message to users that these substances carry a risk and will prevent new chemicals becoming widely available, the Home Office said.
Under the proposals, police will be able to confiscate suspected substances and the UK Border Agency will seize shipments entering the country. Anyone caught supplying a banned substance will face a maximum 14-year jail sentence and an unlimited fine.
But possession for personal use would not be deemed a criminal offence in a bid "to prevent the unnecessary criminalisation of young people", the Home Office said. It said there was clear evidence that substances advertised as new drugs, including Ivory Wave, often contained drugs, such as mephedrone, which are already banned and known to be harmful.
August 19 2010
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