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Legal high crackdown from Kent MPs Julian Brazier and Tracey Crouch

21 January 2014
by Kiran Kaur

Ban legal highs and widen legislation so those who use or carry them are prosecuted.

That's the call from two Kent MPs, who are fighting for changes in the law on drugs that can kill people, but are regularly sold over the counter of shops.

Speaking in the week KentOnline launched its own campaign, both Julian Brazier, MP for Canterbury and Whitstable, and Tracey Crouch, MP for Chatham and Aylesford, have written to the Home Secretary voicing their concerns.

MP Julian Brazier examines the response from the Home Office to his legal highs query

MP Julian Brazier examines the response from the Home Office to his legal highs query

They feel a ban is one of the only solutions to tackle the number of deaths and injuries in Kent where legal highs are involved.

The government launched a review into the substances in December following concerns drug laws are not flexible enough to tackle them.

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It is a move welcomed by both Kent MPs.

Mr Brazier said: “The government has recognised that there is a gap.

"The police are finding that they can’t secure prosecutions on these chemicals while the government thought that they would be able to.

Would you like to see tougher restrictions placed on legal highs?

"This is what the review is about and I’m pressing for a result as soon as possible so that we don’t get any more of these terrible cases.”

He added: “We have a regime which is designed to prevent people taking dangerous drugs.

"By finding chemicals which are very close to dangerous drugs but not quite the same thing, places like UK Skunkworks are able to make money out of selling dangerous products to young people.

"The government is doing their best of finding a way to stop it and I want to hurry the process up.”

Tracey said: “I welcome the government’s review. I hope it won’t take too long for it to conduct its research into this issue because I do feel something needs to be done urgently.

"We’ve seen too many tragic incidents or near misses across the county so I think we really need to crack on and deal with this.” 

Chatham and Aylesford MP Tracey Crouch

Chatham and Aylesford MP Tracey Crouch

The man behind the review is crime prevention minister Norman Baker.

In an exclusive interview with KentOnline he said he was aware of the fears for long-term users and the emotional, mental and physical consequences.

But he feels a blanket ban is not necessarily the right move.

He said: “It is an option but it could also end up banning substances that are harmless or near harmless and that may not be a sensible outcome.”

The review will see officials considering what the is best way forward.

Key areas will include how to minimise the health risks and comparing how other countries tackle the issue.

A user smokes a legal high. Posed by a model

A user smokes a legal high

Mr Baker feels it is important people living in Kent understand that this is not an issue being ignored.

He said: “I’ve asked for a review because I want to see how best we can control these substances.

"I think it’s important to suggest to young people in particular that they’re called legal highs and, while we've banned hundreds of these substances already, if some are out there that are still unbanned it doesn’t mean they’re safe.

"They may actually be far more dangerous than existing drugs on the market.”

He added: “We are taking a great deal of action, we’ve got to face as a world that this is a new situation.”

It’s a view Mr Brazier appreciates.

The MP said: “They do realise the law needs further tightening despite a couple of goes at it and they’re looking at it and I’m looking to speed that process up.”

The government has banned more than 200 substances since coming to power and Mr Baker’s aim is to undergo the same process.

He said: “As soon as we identify a substance which we think is dangerous, it can be subject to a temporary banning order.

"If, during that period, it’s concluded that the substance is dangerous it will be banned permanently.”

Mr Baker hopes the government review will be concluded before summer 2014.

Video: Chatham and Aylesford MP Tracey Crouch speaks out against legal highs 

If you need advice or support with any issues around legal highs, you can phone Frank on 0300 123 6600 or anti-drugs charity KCA on 01227 456 744 in east and mid-Kent, 01634 338 640 in west Kent or 01634 338 640 in Medway.

Tomorrow, the mum of a youngster who died after taking legal highs tells why she is setting up a website to warn others.



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