Our local MPs have welcomed plans for a blanket ban on ‘legal high’ drugs.
Cat Smith, MP for Lancaster and Fleetwood, and David Morris, MP for Morecambe and Lunesdale, were both pleased to see a proposed ban on psychoactive drugs included in the Queen’s Speech on Wednesday.
This came seven days after five Lancaster University students were rushed to hospital after taking a legal high drug known as Spice.
Legislation called the Psychoactive Substances Bill will be introduced to “protect UK citizens from the risks posed by untested, unknown and potentially harmful drugs”.
It would be an offence to produce, supply, offer to supply, possess, import or export psychoactive substances such as Spice. The maximum sentence for anyone found to be breaking the law would be seven years.
Five Lancaster University students, all thought to be first year male undergraduates, were hospitalised last week after taking the drug, two ending up in a critical condition. They were discharged from hospital on Friday, with the other three having already left hospital the day after the incident.
Following the Queen’s Speech, Cat Smith said: “The inclusion of this is long overdue as there have been no changes to the law in this respect since 2009, and in this time many new legal highs have been developed.
“The recent news from Lancaster University is the latest in many of young people taking legal highs and ending up hospitalised. In some cases legal highs have been associated with death and long-term health problems.
“I hope the government includes education as well as a ban. It’s important young people understand the risks of legal highs and can make an educated choice not to take them.”
David Morris said: “This will stop it being sold on the high street and prevent what went on at the university from happening again.”
Ambulances and police were called to the Grizedale college halls of residence last Wednesday at 6pm, after the five students took the cannabis-style substance which has been banned from shops since 2009.
Mr Morris’ son Thomas is studying at Lancaster University and is also in Grizedale college.
The MP said: “My son knows the boys, but not very well. He’d heard about what happened. I can’t get my head around it. You would have thought if (the students) were smart enough to go to university they would have the common sense not to touch that sort of stuff.
“You just don’t put yourself in that position. Just don’t do it.”
Mr Morris, a former session musician, said he’d seen the effects of drug taking first hand when he was part of the music business. “Some of my friends turned to drugs. With some of them, it was frightening how quickly they were pulled into it.
“From starting on pot to injecting heroin, less than six months in some cases. And they were in total denial, some of them.
“It’s frightening how quickly it gets a grip.
“They want to experiment, but these poor kids have paid a high price. I’m sure they won’t do it again.”
Public Health England welcomed the ban saying it would “reduce the easy availability of these substances, but we also crucially need to continue to focus on preventing and treating the harms that they can cause.”
The Local Government Association also welcomed the news, saying, “an outright ban on legal highs will rightly enable the closure of head shops and protect the public from devastating consequences”.