The UK should consider a well-regulated industry of synthetic drugs as a way of keeping users safe, according to one of the pioneers behind the ‘legal high’ industry.
Grant Hall, general manager of the STAR Trust, led the way in creating New Zealand’s ‘Psychoactive Substances Act’. It is the only legislation in the world that allows the manufacture and sale of “social tonics”.
Mr Hall said: “We also know that prohibition doesn’t reduce demand. It simply hands over control to organised crime networks who don’t do quality control, don’t check ID and don’t pay taxes.
“If the Government take control within a strictly regulated regime, as New Zealand has done, then we would expect far less harms overall.”
Since the Psychoactive Substances Act was signed into law in July 2013, Mr Hall says the industry has reduced the level of harm to drug takers while allowing “ethical” manufacturers to flourish.
He said: “All the experts confirm is that if we focus on dealing with drug use as a health and welfare issue, as opposed to a criminal justice issue, we will get better outcomes for society as a whole.”
In 2012, ‘legal highs’ caused 52 deaths – almost double the amount in 2011. It is claimed that a 20-year-old from Gravesend died last week after taking an unknown substance.
Mr Hall said of the victims: “Any harms from any drugs [legal or illegal] is always devastating to any family and this is part of the reason why we are so committed to harm minimisation, health and safety.
“Our position is that we should let the scientists decide, independent of the politicians, what is low risk and how best to manage the protocols to market.”