New legislation, which comes into force on Thursday 26 May, will help to tackle the serious health risks associated with ‘legal highs’.
‘Legal highs’ are psychoactive substances which are meant to mimic the effects of controlled drugs like cocaine or ecstasy.
The new legislation means that it is now illegal to sell psychoactive substances or even to give them away for free. Bringing them in from abroad will also be a crime.
Police Scotland will be enforcing the new legislation and people who commit an offence, including buying or selling psychoactive substances could face up to seven years in prison.
The Police, who have the powers to enter premises, will also have new powers to stop and search people they think are supplying them and will seize and destroy psychoactive substances if they find them.
Councillor Tom Cook, Cabinet Member for Community Safety and Equalities said: “The Trading Standard Service has worked hard in recent years trying to tackle the sale of ‘legal highs’ within East Ayrshire. The team were restricted by the legislation that was open to them, taking samples of substances legally on sale.
“The new legislation will ensure that Trading Standards can work with Police Scotland to stop psychoactive substances being bought and sold.
“There has been very little research into the short or long-term risks of psychoactive substances. These substances can have widely different strengths and effects on different people. The change in the legislation is welcome progress towards protecting people from the risks associated with these drugs.”
Eddie Fraser, Director of Health and Social Care Partnership and Chair of the Alcohol and Drugs Partnership said: “Earlier this year, we welcomed Minister for Community Safety and Legal Affairs Paul Wheelhouse to the Grand Hall for a learning event which focused on New Psychoactive Substances (NPS). Speakers from the NHS, Police Scotland, Scottish Drugs Forum, East Ayrshire Alcohol and Drugs Partnership, Barnardos and Scottish Families Affected by Alcohol and Drugs addressed issues including the local effects of NPS, young people and NPS and current trends.
“A particular focus of the event, which was attended by almost 100 people, was how we provide our young people with information and education about the risks from these substances.
“We are committed to discussing and developing opportunities for improved partnership working and information sharing so that agencies, services and organisations are able to respond to this issue quickly and effectively.”
Sergeant Allan Jackson, Police Scotland said: “Those who take New Psychoactive Substances are taking exceptional risks with their health and those who profited from this reckless trade did so with a complete disregard for the potential consequences.
“We welcome this new legislation and the additional powers it provides to police and local authorities to tackle the harm such substances cause within our communities.”
Dr Carol Davidson, Director of Public Health – NHS Ayrshire & Arran, said: “We welcome this new legislation in tackling the growing trend in the use of New Psychoactive Substances (NPS). The effects of these substances are unknown but are potentially life-threatening. We will continue to work with our partners to highlight the dangers associated with these chemicals.”