A little over a year since Maidstone was dubbed the legal highs capital of Kent the town appears to have shed the title.
Simultaneous raids on 420 Headshop, in Union Street, and Raj’s 59, in Week Street, last week found no substances on sale, while Mill Street’s Kvltvre, formerly Skunkworks, was closed, and Beverages, in the High Street, has shut down permanently.
Twelve shops in Ashford, Margate, Chatham, Sheerness, Folkestone, Gravesend and Canterbury were also targeted last Wednesday morning.
Kent County Council Trading Standards revisited the businesses 12 months after a similar operation saw 1,443 potentially unsafe products – many chemically similar to banned substances – temporarily banned from 20 shops.
Of these, 600 were removed from the shelves of shops in Maidstone – more than anywhere else in the county – and destroyed following a court order made on the grounds the packaging did not provide a full list of ingredients or say how the item should be used or consumed.
This time just four shops were found to be selling products, a result which KCC and police has found encouraging.
Trading Standards manager Richard Strawson said: “We see this dramatic reduction as a significant success. As we pointed out last year, we regard them as ‘lethal’ rather than ‘legal’ highs because they are dangerously unsafe.
"The government has announced plans to crackdown, with sellers facing up to seven years in prison.”
Insp Garry Brimson said: “It is encouraging to see the majority of businesses are now getting the message that this won’t be tolerated. There is still some work to be done ensuring that potential users are aware of the dangers.
"When you buy a product, you don’t know what you are buying, and the effect you want may be different to the effect you get.
“It is important to remember that just because people have previously been able to buy something legally, this does not always mean that it was necessarily safe for human consumption.”