UK Legal Highs market being targeted despite recently enforced blanket ban

Legal Highs market being targeted

The Psychoactive Substances Act came into effect on the May 23rd, which criminalized the production, distribution, sale and supply of the drugs. The legislation was aimed to stop the increasing levels of incidents, and in some cases death from use of the drugs.

Before the enforced legislation, suppliers and manufacturers were easily able to manipulate compounds within the substances to mimic the effects of illegal drugs such as cocaine, cannabis and ecstasy. However, since the ban has come into force, parts of the UK have seen a significant reduction in incident. Newcastle for example has seen a significant reduction in reports across the city. In January of this year there was 192 reported incidents, but once the legislation came into effect in the month of July the report figure had fallen dramatically to just 26. Newcastle PCC Vera Baird stated, “The work of the task force has been so successful so far that other police forces and agencies from around the country have been in touch looking to learn how the issue is being tackled here in Newcastle.”

Newcastle is a success story despite the continued effort to clamp down across the country, there have been a number of cases where products are still reaching the market. A recent undercover investigation by the BBC found that numerous suppliers from China have specifically targeted the UK market as a result of the ban being imposed on UK suppliers and manufacturers.

The investigation found that when a reporter bought two samples of synthetic cannabis costing £150, the UK street value exceeded more than £4,000. With such a large markup on value it is easy to understand why the UK market is so attractive to overseas manufacturers.

The government in response has tried to clampdown on the sourcing of substances. Since May they have seized 44 shipments and continue to monitor imports for further substances trying to enter within the UK. However this can prove difficult, as the overseas suppliers are disguising the substances in everyday items, with the investigation finding one specific example disguised as a water filter. The Chinese government has also made a concerted effort to counteract the issue. Last year they banned 166 substances which make up the ingredients used in legal highs, but with chemical compounds being easily altered the ban can be navigated with one or two small adjustments.

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