Eastbourne and Hastings based traders selling New Psychoactive Substances (NPS) or ‘legal highs’ are being left in no doubt as to their obligations in law.
Sussex Police, the Safer East Sussex Team and East Sussex County Council’s trading standards department have launched Operation Deter to tackle products colloquially known as ‘legal highs’.
As there is no penalty for possessing them, as would be the case with controlled drugs such as cannabis and cocaine, they have become popular with the street community and recreational users.
On Monday December 15, known outlets for products such as Clockwork Orange, Exodus, Herbal Haze, Jumping Beans, Psyclone and Sparkle were visited by police 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. Producers often aim to get round regulations by stating that substances are - for example - herbal incense, research chemicals and not for human consumption. But because it is reasonably foreseeable that buyers actually want them to consume, smoke or inhale to induce a psychoactive response, this means that sellers must ensure they not dangerous.
CI Paul Phelps, Hastings district police commander, said, “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 paracetamol can kill your headache, but something called - for argument’s sake –paracetamole, 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.
Police and trading standards officers plan to follow up the advice with snap inspections to check that regulations are being followed.
Unsafe or illegal products will be seized as evidence and where appropriate a prosecution may follow.