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Police begin clampdown on legal highs as new legislation comes into force

25 May 2016

Police ready to use new powers to prevent harm caused by psychoactive substances North Yorkshire Police have pledged to take action against people producing, supplying and importing so-called ‘legal highs’, when new legislation is implemented nationally this week.

From Thursday 26 May 2016, the Psychoactive Substances Act 2016 will fundamentally change the way UK police forces tackle psychoactive substances and will make new drugs that appear on the market illegal quicker than ever before.

  • Illegal drugs such as cannabis, cocaine and ecstasy will continue to be controlled by the Misuse of Drugs Act.
  • While the new Act does not criminalise simple possession of psychoactive substances, it will be an offence to possess them within custodial institutions, or anywhere with intent to supply them to another.
  • It is also an offence to import them (e.g. by buying them from a foreign website).

National Police Chiefs’ Council Lead for New Psychoactive Substances, Commander Simon Bray, said:

This new legislation is a very positive step forward. Police are ready to enforce the new law and tackle the harm caused in communities by the sale and use of drugs. As with all drugs, our approach will be practical, proportionate and based on the individual circumstances.

Forces are committed to reducing the harm caused by all drugs but we cannot do this alone – prevention, education and health service all have a crucial role to play.


Chief Inspector Lindsey Stamp, of North Yorkshire Police, said:

Our message has always been clear that these substances are extremely dangerous. The term ‘legal highs’ led some people to believe that they were safe, but nothing could be further from the truth. Users can never be sure of what exactly is in them, or what their effects might be, which makes using them a huge risk.

In the past, suppliers of new psychoactive substances have sidestepped the law by using ingredients that mimic the effects of controlled drugs. This legislation will now enable us, with the help of our partners, to prevent such substances from causing further harm to our communities.

Please let us know if you are aware of anyone continuing to supply psychoactive substances once the Act commences on 26 May – we can and will take action against them.

A variety of options exist in enforcing this legislation including prohibition notices, premises notices, prohibition orders and premises orders, which allow police or local authorities to require people to stop stocking, selling or supplying psychoactive substances.

Officers have been given powers to stop and search people, vehicles and vessels, enter and search premises in accordance with a warrant, and to seize and destroy psychoactive substances.

North Yorkshire Police will send hard-hitting messages on social media, including Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, highlighting the impact of the new legislation, via the hashtag #PSAct.

Commander Bray added:

Police forces, Trading Standards, border forces and other organisations have been working hard to tackle the supply of controlled and non-controlled new psychoactive substances, but a blanket ban will make it simpler to deal with those drugs that are unsafe but may not yet be controlled. It will also make it easier to tackle so-called ‘legal highs’ which may contain mixtures including already illegal drugs.


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