A cross-party group of peers has made recommendations to the government that the practice of swiftly banning “legal highs” should come to an end.
As The Guardian note, the all-party parliamentary group on drug reform suggests that the substances in questions should instead be tested, regulated, and sold legally under tightly controlled conditions. A new report, overseen by Baroness Meacher and published today, points towards New Zealand’s current system as the model to follow:
“Under these controls suppliers would, as is planned in New Zealand, be limited to certain outlets and required to label their product with a clear description of its contents, its risks and the maximum advisable dose. The supplier would also be responsible for assuring that their product causes only limited harms”.
The report’s verdicts have been shaped by testimony from senior police officers, who noted that the 1971 Misuse Of Drugs Act is too blunt an instrument to deal with the UK’s intricate and many-headed drug scene. As chief constable Tim Hollis of the Association Of Chief Police Officers drugs committee stressed, the rapid rate at which new ‘legal highs’ appear – around one a week – necessitates a change of tack: “The solution to the particular challenges of legal highs does not lie in adding inexorably to the list of illicit substances”.
Under the current system, a 12 month temporary banning order is instantly imposed on a new drug whilst government drug specialists investigate potential harms, as has happened with mephedrine and methoxetamine. Such bans are subsequently expected to be made permanent. The report stresses that this process of prohibition only causes more new substances to mushroom to fill the gap; according to toxicologist and contributor Dr John Ramsey:
“As long as large amounts of money can be made selling untreated chemicals, for which there is a market of largely young people willing to risk using them as drugs, and a chemical industry willing to supply the chemicals, the situation is unlikely to improve”.