Police have warned anyone on the Fylde coast who produces, sells or imports substances formerly known as ‘legal highs’ that they could face a prison sentence from today.
The Psychoactive Substances Act, which came into force this morning, is a blanket ban on the production, supply and importation of new psychoactive substances .
Those caught breaking the new law could face a jail term of up to seven years in the most serious cases.
The Government has promised the new law will fundamentally change the way the police tackle psychoactive substances and will make new drugs that appear on the market illegal quicker than ever before.
Police on the Fylde coast today welcomed a new tool in their armoury but made it clear they would not be setting out to criminalise those who needed help.
However, Inspector Jonathan Smith, who is the lead figure in the fight against new psychoactive substances in Blackpool, Fylde and Wyre, warned did warn the act of sharing a ‘legal high’ with a friend could potentially lead to arrest.
He said: “This is an extra power to our elbow to help transform the lives of the people who are using these substances.
“That is our primary concern – people’s health and wellbeing.
“These are chemicals being produced to have and effect on the mind of the user.
“They are quite often being used by young people, in public places, such as parks and beaches.
“They are often being shared around. “If you are doing that you are involved in supply and could potentially end up in trouble with the police.”
In spite of the warnings, Inspector Smith made it clear there would be no rush to make criminals of people overnight.
He said: “We will take a common sense approach.
“There will be no knee jerk.
“Our approach will remain one based on education and support.
“We are not out to criminalise people.
“If it is necessary we will take action and if we find evidence of use in a specific location we will look at how best to deal with any problems
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, including by buying them from a foreign website.
Inspector Smith said Blackpool’s night time economy did present specific challenges but there was no evidence former ‘legal highs’ were more of a problem than anywhere else in Lancashire.
He said: “In Blackpool we do have a more expanded night time economy.
“But these new psychoactive substances are in use across Lancashire.”
Illegal drugs such as cannabis, cocaine and ecstasy will continue to be controlled by the Misuse of Drugs Act.
Information about psychoactive substances can be reported to the police on 101 or to Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.