Trading Standards officers across Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent will continue to monitor premises selling so-called legal highs in light of new legislation.
New laws banning the production, sale and supply of new psychoactive substances (NPSs) have come into force.
It is now illegal to supply any so-called “legal highs” for human consumption, which includes selling them or giving them away for free. Importing them from abroad will also be a crime.
Staffordshire Trading Standards, in partnership with colleagues at Stoke-on-Trent City Council and Staffordshire Police, have been working with retailers since April to ensure they are aware of the legislation.
In previous crackdowns, a total of 11 premises in Staffordshire were found to be selling NPSs, with four of these voluntarily surrendering their products to Trading Standards.
NPSs, or legal highs as they are mistakenly known, contain chemical substances that produce similar effects to illegal drugs like cocaine, cannabis and ecstasy.
There is very little research into how potent they are and how they affect people, or how they interact with other substances such as alcohol. Many of these legal highs have been linked to poisoning, emergency hospital admissions and in recent cases, even death.
Anyone selling these substances now faces arrest as a drug dealer and up to seven years in prison.
County Councillor Gill Heath, Cabinet Member for Communities and the Environment, said:
These new laws cover substances which are capable of creating a psychoactive effect on a person who uses them. Retailers can no longer sell these so-called ‘legal’ highs, and our Trading Standards officers will be continuing to monitor premises that we suspect are selling them under-the-counter.
“These substances are often seen as an alternative to drugs like cocaine, cannabis and ecstasy, but the reality is that they are just as addictive and dangerous. They can have serious consequences for people’s health, so the more powers we have to get them off the market, the more we can minimise the risk to the local community.
Councillor Randy Conteh, the city council’s cabinet member for housing, communities and safer city, said:
The effects of psychoactive substances on people are often unknown, but more evidence is showing that they can have serious health effects – causing paranoia, psychosis, seizures, hospitalisation and sometimes even death after ingestion.
“This new law will enable trading standards officers across Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent to work alongside the police to crack down on retailers selling them, and get them off the streets.