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Legal highs ban could be brought in after minister Norman Baker publishes review into psycho-active substances

Minsters are considering banning the sale of all legal highs following a major review into the substances.

The Government has heard evidence from experts after legal highs were linked to the deaths of 68 people in England and Wales in 2012.

Now, a panel has called for a ban on all so-called psycho-active substances - which can be legally bought over the counter of 'head shops'.

Legal highs are a growing problem
Legal highs are a growing problem

In a forthright statement today, crime prevention minister Norman Baker, who led the review, said the legal drugs worried him, as people were dying after taking them.

The review follows a campaign by the KM Group, calling for tighter controls on the substances.

A dossier of evidence was presented to the minister earlier this year, which was included in the evidence considered by the panel.

In July, trading standards officers from Kent County Council joined police in raiding more than a dozen head shops, after it was revealed the county has more of the stores than any other county in the UK.

Nearly 2,000 packets were seized, in the belief they contained the potentially dangerous substances.

Mr Baker said: "We want to criminalise those people who are making money out of misery and we want to see head shops shut across the country.

"But we also want to recognise that those people unfortunate enough to have tried those substances, they have a health issue, and we will deal with it as a health issue."

A user smokes a legal high. Picture: Library image
A user smokes a legal high. Picture: Library image

The ban would mirror the approach in the Republic of Ireland, where there was a blanket ban on such substances.

But Mr Baker said there would have to be common sense applied to the application of any law.

A substance that was 100 times more potent than cannabis would be outlawed, but substances like tea and coffee would not.

How we fought our legal highs campaign

Mum Karen Audino, believes her son Jimmy Guichard, of Gravesend, died after taking synthetic cannabis.

She has been campaigning for legal highs to be banned - and generally welcomed the changes.

Smoking the 'drug'
Smoking the 'drug'

"There's lots of things that need to be looked at and implemented, but this is something that we have been looking at for, well, a year and a month now.

"It's a positive step forward. There's still a lot more to be done in regards to internet laws and internet trading, but we are one step towards making our children safer."

Chatham and Aylesford MP Tracey Crouch welcomed the move.

She said: "I know, from our own local experience, that legal highs are posing a problem to our youngsters - in part because of the definition of it being legal.

Conservative Tracey Crouch
Conservative Tracey Crouch

"So, on the whole, I am pleased that the government has taken this issue seriously."

Richard Strawson, KCC's trading standards manager said: "We've always argued that the existing legislation is difficult to cover New Psychoactive Substances so any legislation that effectively prevents the substances from being sold is welcomed by trading standards.

"If we have new legislation that effectively deals with the sale of NPS' then obviously enforcement will be more effective and will be easier, if the legislation is right.

"I think it's clearly evidence that these NPS' do cause harm and therefore any steps that either the government can make or local authorities can do to prevent the consumption of these products is good."

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