Police Get New Powers To Tackle Legal Highs

26 May 2016, 07:39 | Updated: 26 May 2016, 07:42

A new law has started this morning banning the sale of legal highs.

The Psychoactive Substances Act 2016 will provide a blanket ban on the production, supply and importation of new psychoactive substances. 

This legislation will fundamentally change the way forces tackle psychoactive substances.

National Police Chiefs' Council Lead for New Psychoactive Substances, Commander Simon Bray said; "This new legislation is a very positive step forward. Police are ready to enforce the new law and tackle the harm caused in communities by the sale and use of drugs. As with all drugs, our approach will be practical, proportionate and based on the individual circumstances.

"Forces are committed to reducing the harm caused by all drugs but we cannot do this alone; prevention, education and health service all have a crucial role to play."

The act is designed to target those who produce, supply and offer to supply psychoactive substances and will create new criminal offences that could result in seven years imprisonment.

As of May 26 there will be no more so called 'legal highs' as the act encompasses all substances that are capable of having an effect on your central nervous system or your emotional and mental state - i.e. is capable of producing a psychoactive effect in a person who consumes it - with the exception of foods, medicines, alcohol, caffeine and nicotine, etc, that are listed in schedule 1 of the Act, and controlled drugs covered under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971.

Alkyl nitrates, also known as poppers, are also excluded from the legislation.

Nitrous Oxide is included within the legislation when being sold for recreational purposes, or a purpose that it is not meant for.

The Act does not aim to criminalise people who possess the substances but those illegally producing, importing or supplying them 

New Psychoactive Substances (NPS) and the rise in their use have been a challenge for existing drugs legislation with NPS being developed at such a speed that by the time one substance is controlled another one with a slight change in chemical structure can take its place on the market.

The long term medical implications of using such substances are currently unknown.

In Suffolk Controlled Drug and Chemical Liaison Officer Robin Pivett has visited all known outlets in the county to advise about the change in legislation while officers across Norfolk have been gathering information about where the substances are sold to ensure existing suppliers are aware.

Police in both counties have also been working closely with partners, including prison authorities, as possession of psychoactive substances within custodial institutions, such as prisons, will be an offence.

The new act will grant police powers to stop and search for, and dispose of, psychoactive substances. Officers will also be able to obtain search warrants for premises linked to the supply, importation or production of NPS. 

Superintendent Andrew Mason of Suffolk Police said; "The contents and medical effects of these substances have been largely unknown. They have usually been circulated marked as 'not for human consumption' but as so-called 'legal highs' have often been seen as acceptable despite users not knowing what chemicals were contained within the packet.

"The new legislation gives police clearer powers to deal with the supply of these products and we would ask anyone with information about their production or supply to contact us following the introduction of new powers on May 26."

Chief Inspector David Buckley of Norfolk Police said; "We welcome the introduction of this new legislation that clarifies the position with regards to the supply of these substances, that can cause considerable harm. The greatest concern is that anyone taking them does not know what they contain and previously they have been linked to both hospital admissions and deaths. Police will now have the powers to take action against anyone involved in illegally supplying them or importing them."

A variety of options exist in enforcing the legislation including prohibition notices, premises notices, prohibition orders and premises orders, which allow police or local authorities to require people to stop stocking, selling or supplying psychoactive substances.