Merseyside’s Police Commissioner has highlighted the work already being done to tackle so-called ‘legal highs’ as she today welcomed a landmark law creating a blanket ban on their use.
From today (Thursday 26th May 2016) it will be illegal to supply legal highs for human consumption, which includes selling or giving them away for free (even to friends) when they are going to be taken for their psychoactive effects. Importing them from abroad will also be a crime.
Legal highs are substances which produce similar effects to illegal drugs but which were previously not controlled under the Misuse of Drugs Act. While they could not be sold for human consumption, they were often marketed as bath salts or plant food to get around the law.
Today’s legislation provides tough new enforcement powers including a range of criminal and civil sanctions and sentences of up to seven years for offenders.
The new legislation has been welcomed by Merseyside’s Police Commissioner, Jane Kennedy, who is already working with Merseyside-based charity Evolve to tackle this issue in the region.
Evolve provides specialist services to increase knowledge and awareness of the potentially devastating consequences of abusing ‘legal highs’.
In March, the charity received a grant from the Commissioner’s Crime Prevention Fund to carry out its vital work in schools, colleges and youth groups. The funding enables Evolve to deliver preventative sessions across the region warning young people of the dangers of taking these substances, as well as offering group work and one-to-one support.
Jane said: "Too many young people have assumed that because these substances are ‘legal’ that they are safe to consume. That couldn’t be further from the truth and sadly in this region we have already seen the devastating consequences of what can happen when young people experiment with these dangerous substances.
"The introduction of this law makes it quite clear that these substances are illegal and they are harmful. I hope it will stop many young people from experimenting with these potentially fatal substances.
"It’s not enough just to legislate though and that’s why earlier this year I was delighted to give my backing to the charity Evolve. Evolve works to educate and warn young people of the dangers of taking these substances to try and help reduce and prevent the harm they are causing.
"Evolve are leading the way in guiding our young people away from these harmful substances and providing support and care for those who have already been tempted into abusing them and I was delighted to be able to commission them to carry out this work across Merseyside."
Evolve was founded by former nurse Barbara Skinner and qualified counsellor Alison Hodgson, who have both suffered personal tragedies as a result of so-called ‘legal highs’.
In 2007, Alison’s 23-year-old nephew Christian died as a result of drugs after first abusing Volatile Substances. Just five years later, her 14-year-old nephew was hospitalised as a result of abusing so-called ‘legal highs’.
Alison said: "I was absolutely heartbroken, but I was also angry, angry that he had succumbed to peer pressure without any thought of the consequences. Prior to this law coming into place, any young person from any background or community could get hold of these ‘legal highs’ and the effects could be devastating.
Alison added: "These young people have been taking their lives in their hands every time they abuse these substances. In the last few years, hundreds of new substances have been created, but the young people that are taking them have no idea what they contain and the effects those ingredients will have.
"We created Evolve because we wanted to bridge the gap between this illegal and legal substance abuse.
"The introduction of this law makes it clear; these substances are not harmless fun. They can inflict serious damage and are potentially lethal.
"Over the last couple of years we have been taking that message to more than 750 young people every month in school assemblies, youth workshops and community sessions. Through targeted education and early intervention our aim has been to warn young people of the dangerous they face. We have also worked to increase knowledge among parents, carers and guardians – ignorance is not an excuse.
"Everybody needs to be aware of the consequences of abusing these substances and I hope the creation of this law will take that message into many homes across Merseyside."
Find out more about Evolve.
Merseyside Police warning over change in law
Merseyside Police is warning people to be aware of a change in the law on so called ‘legal highs’ that comes into effect today, Thursday 26 May.
Merseyside Police will be working with partner agencies including trading standards officers to enforce the new legislation with punishments ranging from a prohibition notice to up to seven years in prison.
Police officers will also have new powers to stop and search people who they think are supplying and will seize and destroy ‘legal highs’ when they find them.
Detective Superintendent Lee Turner said: "Legal highs are sold under a range of names and brands – mainly in ‘head shops’ or over the internet.
"Our advice to people has always been not to take any substances if they don't know exactly what's in it or where it came from.
"Often people who take new psychoactive substances, have no idea what they are taking - these substances don't come with a list of ingredients and it's very hard to find out what it is.
"From today a new law will come into force making it illegal to produce, supply, import or export a psychoactive substance that is likely to be used to get high and offenders could face up to seven years in prison.
"Merseyside Police will be working with partner agencies including trading standards officers to enforce the new legislation and will be using various methods of enforcement including civil and criminal proceedings against any shops or individuals found doing so."
The Public Health Team at Liverpool City Council have issued the following advice:
- Do not use “legal highs” The term legal does not mean they are necessarily safe
- Where an individual intends to use a “legal high” always chose to use much less than they think they may need
- Where an individual is experiencing mild symptoms after using a legal high, drink plenty of fluids, take some fresh air and give a little time for symptoms to subside
- Where symptoms are more severe visit A&E
- If somebody has longer term health concerns after using a “legal high visit they should visit their GP
- For further information on “Legal Highs” go to www.talktofrank.com
- To access local help and support Tel Freephone 0800 0196 197