Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Local fall in legal high purchases

Here is a link to an interview with the manager of Apothecary, the shop which was at the heart of selling 'legal highs' in the Southside area.  Apothecary is in Clerk Street and the manager, Chris McGuinness claims that sales of the chemical compounds are down 80%.  The argument is then made that users are moving back to illegal drugs such as heroin and cocaine and that the action is driving drug use underground.

But we shouldn't pay too much attention to that argument.  The key quote in the above link is from Ch Insp Helen Harrison:
"These substances (legal highs) are not safe and have a hugely negative impact on individuals and communities."
Some libertarians believe there should be no restrictions on sale and people should take the consequences of their own actions.  Others, who are sympathetic to drug use, argue that the restrictions on shops like Apothecary will drive use underground and, in some cases drive users back to heroin, cocaine and other illegal drugs.

Neither argument is good.  It is appropriate to have limited public policy which guides conduct in certain areas.  For example, we have seat belt legislation to control conduct in vehicles.  Taking legal highs is rather more dangerous than not belting up. And as legal highs are usually dangerous - as is illegal heroin -  there is good reason to send a signal through public policy or legislation that society is not willing to tolerate certain types of conduct.  Whilst there will always be some who will put fleeting pleasures above longer term harm to their brains and their bodies, there are many who will be deterred by that public policy which sends a signal that such conduct is unacceptable.  

Certainly it is early days to judge the long term success of the moves by trading standards officers to classify legal highs as harmful substances.  And time will tell if the legislation going through the UK parliament to control legal highs will be successful.  But, knowing the harm cause by such drug use I support these moves.

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