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Thursday, 24 April 2014

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Review of legal highs law welcomed in Cumbria

A NEW review of “legal highs” in the wake of an Evening Mail campaign could lead to sweeping changes to UK drug legislation, the Home Office has said.

South Cumbria’s top policeman, Superintendent Mark Pannone, welcomed the move and says he hopes any changes are made quickly to protect young people.

However, Barrow MP John Woodcock wants the police to be given more powers to stamp out “this evil”.

Legal highs – officially known as psychoactive substances – are synthetic drugs which can be bought online and sometimes in shops. The review follows concern drug laws are not flexible enough to tackle them.

Deaths from legal highs in England and Wales almost doubled to 52 last year. The government said it was “determined to clamp down on the reckless trade”.

In July The Evening Mail’s Ban Them Now campaign was launched, calling for a ban on so-called legal highs as well as an education programme to highlight the dangers. Government drugs minister, Jeremy Browne, pledged to review the laws on legal highs after lobbying from Mr Woodcock.

It is estimated that across the EU one new substance a week is being detected.

In America drugs are automatically banned if they are “substantially similar” to the chemical structure of already illegal substances.

The review panel – which will include police, prosecutors, health experts and council officials – has been asked to report back in spring 2014.

Mr Woodcock said: “It is good that the government is finally bowing to pressure to overhaul the laws but I think many parents will have serious concerns about the idea of seeking to regulate this menace, rather than making it easier to get new substances banned and the people who peddle them locked up.

“I will consider carefully what is proposed, but my strong instinct is to give the police more powers to stamp out this evil rather than giving a thumbs-up to the so-called ‘less harmful’ end of it.”

Supt Pannone said: “This is an opportunity to reduce the harm caused by these substances by restricting their importation and use. I welcome any legal change which will reduce the availability of so-called legal highs. I hope the Advisory Council for the Misuse of Drugs makes recommendations quickly and the necessary legislative changes are made to protect young people.”

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