New powers to tackle harm caused by psychoactive substances Date published: 26th May 2016 8.52am

From today (Thursday 26 May 2016) it will be illegal to sell or supply any psychoactive substance and suppliers are being given the opportunity to surrender their stocks in a week-long hand in.

The hand-in will run from Thursday 26 May until midnight on Wednesday 1 June and allow people in Cheshire to safely dispose of these substances without fear of prosecution at their local police.

Psychoactive substances are often referred to as legal highs and used as an umbrella term for products that are intended to mimic the effects of controlled drugs. The term ‘legal’ implies that these substances are not as dangerous as controlled drugs, but are in fact designed to mimic their effects. In reality many do actually contain controlled substances, which are illegal and whose side effects cannot be predicted.

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. It will give police the power to shut down shops that are trading in legal highs and it will also be an offence to import them, for instance buying them from a foreign website.

Possessing a psychoactive substance will not be an offence, except in a custodial institution. However possession with the intent to supply, import or export a psychoactive substance is now an offence.

Detective Chief Inspector Paul Beauchamp said: “In Cheshire we are dealing with more incidents each year that involve the use of psychoactive substances. In the past three years we’ve seen incidents rise by nearly 200 per cent. Last year nearly 20 per cent of all incidents relating to psychoactive substances involved young people aged 16 years old or younger.

“We have taken the rise in these substances and the harm they are causing seriously and have already used existing anti-social behaviour legislation to take action against premises selling them. Community Protection Notices have been served on a number of premises in Chester Warrington prohibiting them from selling and distributing ‘legal highs’. A Public Space Protection Order is now in place preventing the use of any intoxicating substances, including ‘legal highs’ in Chester city centre and Warrington is in the process of applying for one in its town centre.

“This isn’t about criminalising those who use these substances, but aimed at the producers, distributors and dealers. Just because they’re known as ‘legal highs’ doesn’t mean to say they are safe, they are lethal. They can kill and people are dicing with their life each time they take one.”

Some drugs marketed as legal highs actually contain some ingredients that are illegal to possess and carry very serious health risks. The chemicals they contain have in most cases never been used in drugs for human consumption before, so haven’t been tested to show that they are safe. Users can never be certain what they are taking and what effects they might have and are often labelled ‘not for human consumption’.

Police in Cheshire have been tackling this issue for some time and work very closely with local authorities who provide support services for addicts. Operations have been taking place across the county to raise awareness of changes in the law and shop owners and other suppliers, giving them time to adhere to the new legislation and stop the trading of these dangerous drugs.

Paul Beauchamp concludes: “We will continue to work closely with our partners and use all the powers we have at our disposal to take positive action that will not only help prevent users of psychoactive substances from being seriously harmed but also to prevent others from the anti-social behaviour that is often linked to such use.

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

If anyone has information regarding the sale or supply of psychoactive substances can call police on 101 or call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.