From the business desk: Legal high restrictions do not go far enough

THE AVAILABILITY of legal highs in our towns is a disturbing reality which must be addressed by the new Government after the election.

Business reporter Oli Poole
Business reporter Oli Poole

Thanks to a somewhat bizarre legal loophole, products which people are freely consuming can currently be sold, so long as they are labelled as ‘not fit for human consumption’ and sellers advise against doing so.

Yet we know that many who buy these products do consume them. They ignore the warnings on the label that list them as ‘incense’ and ‘pot pourri’.

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But equally, lots of them have frighteningly similar names to illegal drugs such as ‘Gogaine’.

Does that sound like a product to freshen up your home with?

The use of legal highs came to my attention this week through the harrowing story of one Worthing couple, who had a nasty reaction after taking ‘Magnum’, purchased over the counter 100 yards from their flat.

While the story of the woman suffering a ‘psychotic breakdown’ was a worrying tale, it seems she got off lightly, with numerous national media reports of deaths occurring after teenagers and adults took legal highs.

Yet despite all these stories, such products can still be purchased alongside an innocent bar of chocolate at some convenience stores and specialist headshops.

Drugs are a complex issue. One seller I spoke to believes a blanket ban on the products would not solve the issue, instead forcing it underground.

But to me, allowing the sale of legal highs even if customers are advised not to consume them, seems unthinkable and I don’t understand how they can remain legal.

The internet poses a significant problem to any ban. It would be almost impossible to enforce. But removing them from general sale would, in my view, close down one route to supply.

As a case in point, the woman I spoke to was looking for legal highs to help her depressive symptoms and sleep issues.

She considered cannabis but was dissuaded from it because it was illegal.

Clearly, she managed to make a convincing argument that she would not consume them and did.

This shows, in my view, that the current restrictions do not, in any way, go far enough to alleviate the chance these products will not be used for a legal high.