NewsNorthern Ireland

City council calls for blanket ban on 'legal highs'

Northern IrelandBy Jamie McDowell
City council calls for blanket ban on 'legal highs'

A Belfast City councillor has said that he would support a blanket ban on ‘legal highs’ being sold in the city.

Bob Stoker said that Belfast should follow Lincoln City Council’s lead and stop the sale of so-called ‘legal highs’.

His call comes after two teenage girls were hospitalised in Newry last week after smoking a tobacco-like legal high.

The 14 and 15-year-olds were taken to Daisy Hill Hospital after taking what was described as a “psychoactive substance”.

Bob Stoker, UUP councillor for Balmoral, said that simple message “drugs kill” applies to legal highs as well as illegal drugs.

“Belfast City council has already successfully imposed a ban on certain shops from selling these substances, but I would absolutely support a total blanket ban on the sale of legal highs,” he said.

“The laws surrounding legal highs are very complicated, so a blanket ban should help eradicate the problem.

“Most of these substances have a label on them that says ‘not fit for human consumption’, but the shops that sell them know exactly what they’re for.

“We need to take firmer direct action against shops selling this stuff.”

Earlier this month Lincoln City Council imposed a ban on legal highs after police recorded 820 incidents in 2014 alone linked to legal stimulants.

Councillors there described how there was a “ready and cheap supply” of drugs on the High Street.

Lincoln’s public protection officer said: “The whole driver behind this for us has been about taking a proactive stance and trying to do something innovative to tackle an issue that’s really having an impact on people that live locally, people that work locally and people that might want to come and visit our city centre.”

In recent months the Sunday World has reported on how the scourge of Magic Dragon, a drug smoked in the same way cannabis is taken, is ruining the lives of teenagers and adults across Northern Ireland.

The legal high industry in Ulster has been steadily growing for years, but late last year Belfast City Council successfully had an interim court order granted to stop named individuals selling the substances from certain premises.

At the time, a council spokesperson said: “Just because they are not banned under drug laws does not mean that these substances are safe; they are a risk to a user’s health because their production is not regulated and the consumer can’t be certain as to what is in them.