Torbay Council’s Community Safety Team is supporting new legislation on legal highs which came in to force on Thursday 26 May.

The psychoactive substances act will provide a blanket ban on the production, supply and importation of new psychoactive substances. This legislation will fundamentally change the way forces tackle psychoactive substances and will make new drugs that appear on the market illegal quicker than ever before.

Psychoactive substances, formerly known as legal highs, are chemical compounds that often replicate the effects of illegal drugs. People called them legal highs because they were previously sold legally as long as the label said, ‘not for human consumption’. People who use psychoactive substances may have thought that because they were sold legally, this meant they were safe. This is not the case; users can never be certain what they are taking and what the effects might be. There have been several deaths linked to the use of legal highs across the country and life-changing harm being caused to others.

Torbay’s Elected Mayor, Gordon Oliver, said: “Operations have been taking place across the country to raise awareness of changes to the law. Suppliers have been given time to adapt to the new laws and stop the trading of these potentially dangerous drugs. We will be working with police to educate users and potential users about the new law and the risks of taking unknown substances.

“A variety of options exist in enforcing this legislation including prohibition notices, premises notices, prohibition orders and premises orders, which allow police or local authorities to require people to stop stocking, selling or supplying psychoactive substances.“

Officers have been given powers to stop and search people, vehicles and vessels, enter and search premises in accordance with a warrant, and to seize and destroy psychoactive substances.

National Police Chiefs’ Council Lead for New Psychoactive Substances, Commander Simon Bray, said:

“This new legislation is a very positive step forward. Police are ready to enforce the new law and tackle the harm caused in communities by the sale and use of drugs. As with all drugs, our approach will be practical, proportionate and based on the individual circumstances.

“Forces are committed to reducing the harm caused by all drugs but we cannot do this alone; prevention, education and health service all have a crucial role to play.

“Police forces, Trading Standards, border forces and other organisations have been working hard to tackle the supply of controlled and non-controlled NPS but a blanket ban on new psychoactive substances will make it simpler to deal with those drugs that are unsafe but may not yet be controlled. It will also make it easier to tackle so called 'legal highs' which may contain mixtures including already illegal drugs.

“We are encouraging the public to let police forces know (eg via Crime Stoppers 0800 555 111) if they believe shops or establishments continue to supply psychoactive substances once the Act commences on 26 May 2016.”

Notes to editors

Illegal drugs such as cannabis, cocaine and ecstasy will continue to be controlled by the misuse of drugs act.

While the new Act does not criminalise simple possession of psychoactive substances, it will be an offence to possess them within custodial institutions, or anywhere with intent to supply them to another. It is also an offence to import them (eg by buying them from a foreign website).

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