Joint operation aims to tackle legal highs

A joint operation spearheaded by Sussex Police has lead to a crack down on traders selling New Psychoactive Substances (NPS).

Sussex Police, the Safer East Sussex Team and East Sussex County Council (ESCC) trading standards launched Operation Deter to tackle products more commonly known as ‘legal highs’.

There is no penalty for possessing NPS, as is the case with controlled drugs such as cannabis and cocaine, and police say they have become popular with the street community and recreational users.

Outlets known for selling products such as Clockwork Orange, Exodus, Herbal Haze, Jumping Beans, Psyclone and Sparkle were visited by police on December 15 and handed letters of advice.

Traders were told they must comply with laws set out in the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, the Intoxicating Substances (Supply) Act 1985 and the General Product (Safety) Regulations 2005.

Police say producers often aim to get round regulations by stating for example that substances are herbal incense, research chemicals and not for human consumption.

Chief Inspector Paul Phelps, Hastings district police commander says because it is reasonably foreseeable that buyers of NPS actually want them to consume, smoke or inhale to induce a psychoactive response, this means that sellers must ensure they not dangerous.

He added: “Many of these substances mimic controlled drugs, differing only slightly in their chemical make-up. Because of this they can be bought and used with impunity, but therein lies the danger.

“There is no control on their use or content, and this makes them potentially harmful.

“We all know that something called paracetemol can kill your headache, but something called - for argument’s sake - paracetemole, to disguise its true identity, could kill you.”

NPS products are often found without instructions for use, no proper labelling, no list of ingredients and no means of tracing their origin. Chemical composition may vary greatly across and between batches.

Police and trading standards officers plan to follow up the advice with snap inspections to check that regulations are being followed.