The United Kingdom is woefully behind in changing their drug laws, given the increase in drug- related deaths. In 2013 there were 52 reported deaths from legal drugs. A legal drug is classified as one that has not been banned and is sold online or in shops. These drugs are sold under the guise that they are not harmful, but new evidence shows they can be just as harmful as drugs already on the banned list.
Since the new government took power, there have been mild changes to the drug situation in which 200 substances have already been banned. These 200 substances can no longer be sold in shops or online. Anyone selling them or caught taking them will be subject to court proceedings, with a possible custodial sentence.
Unfortunately, the concept of legal drugs leaves quite a bit open to interpretation. The drug laws are considered inflexible when dealing with new substances being created for sale. Statistics show one new ‘substance’ is being spread throughout the EU each week. The drugs under the ‘legal’ classification are all synthetic, without proper study to determine how detrimental they can be to the person taking them.
Shops are a specific target in the UK, in which new laws will ensure these vendors have to prove their substances sold are not harmful. They will have to prove the substance is not being used as a drug. However, this second caveat is more difficult to prove, because any shop owner can state they sold the substance with proper instruction and are not responsible for what the buyer does with it afterwards.
The UK is looking to establish better laws in 2014 to combat the high-rising numbers of deaths due to ‘legal’ substances. In order to prevent legal highs, the new government is looking to review all known substances being sold and adding them to the list if they are ‘substantially’ similar to already banned drugs. If the chemical structure and nature is close enough to illegal drugs, then this new substance will be added to the illegal list.
Poland and the Republic of Ireland have already introduced new laws regarding this problem; however, the UK will need to conduct a full review before any legal means are passed. The review panel will include health experts, police, prosecutors and local council officials. The report is due sometime in the spring of 2014.
Meanwhile, the problem will still continue. There will be more deaths by legal highs because the current laws are not supportive enough. Norman Baker, Crime Prevention Minister, stated that it is difficult to ensure the new substances on the market are not going to impact one’s health. All the Minister and current law enforcement can do is to make the public aware that these new drugs are not vetted and that they can lead to death.
These cautions are not being taken seriously yet, which is causing significant issues. Only when the laws have been changed, passed and enforced will issues with legal highs end. The review is the first legal step in ensuring better legislation for the future, when police and law enforcement personnel will be able to bring those who are breaking the law to justice.
At least two of the banned drugs on the list of 200 were hallucinogens. N-Bomb and BenzoFury were rated as Class A and B substances, respectively. They are responsible for some of the deaths in past years. Unfortunately, legislative changes are too slow in terms of the amount of new drugs hitting the streets, shops and online. It will be a difficult future for the UK government, since new drugs continue to hit the market each and every week.