Damaging impact of legal highs to be curbed by new law

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Londonderry DUP MLA Gary Middleton says the seeming ubiquity of so-called legal highs in ‘head shops’ and online has led more and more of our young people to become dangerously addicted but hopes new legislation coming into effect in April will hopefully help address the problem.

The Assembly Health Committee member said the incoming Psychoactive Substances Act will help reduce the availability of ‘legal highs’ and will ban the production, supply and importation of these lethal substances. The legislation will come into effect from April 1.

Mr Middleton said: “The dangerous use of drugs continues to be an ever growing problem within our society. Many of our young people are becoming addicted to substances and drugs at very young ages. With such easy access to these perilous so called legal highs, a strategic approach to getting them off our streets and out of the marketplace is the only solution. Sadly the substances are still readily available both in ‘head shops’ within our towns and cities as well as the online market. The new legislation will hopefully help bring an end to this serious situation which carries penalties of up to seven years imprisonment. The aim is to stop these drugs being available anywhere.”

Such legislative change is believed to have worked across the border.

Last year the former West Tyrone SDLP MLA Joe Byrne told the Assembly that the owner of a Letterkenny head shop upped sticks and transferred their operation across the border to Omagh following the introduction of stricter laws regulating the sale of so-called legal highs in the Republic of Ireland.

He said: “We had a situation where students would be queueing up in the evening to buy some of these legal highs in their uniforms, and they were also able to resell them to their classmates and friends.”