Call for action on legal highs

Jim Orr pictured in a stairwell in Rankeillor Street that has become a shooting gallery for legal highs. Picture: Ian Rutherford

Jim Orr pictured in a stairwell in Rankeillor Street that has become a shooting gallery for legal highs. Picture: Ian Rutherford

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A COMMUNITY leader has welcomed a tougher stance on legal highs in the Capital – but has called on local MPs to lobby for stricter laws.

The local authority revealed earlier this week that forfeiture orders had been granted at Edinburgh Sheriff Court, prompting so-called “head shops” to voluntarily remove the products from their counters.

The orders were granted to trading standards officers following reports of drug users mixing the powders with heroin and injecting the “lethal cocktail”.

The problem was particularly prevalent in the Southside area, in part due to the proximity of a needle exchange and several premises supplying the so-called new psychoactive substances (NPS).

NHS Lothian also reported a rise in the number of in-patients suffering psychotic episodes after taking the products. Independent Southside/Newington councillor Jim Orr said the forfeiture orders were a welcome step towards stamping out so-called “legal highs”.

He said concerns about people “shooting up” in stairwells in the Southside and Newington had in part prompted the recent resurrection of Southside community council.

He urged Edinburgh MPs to support the Psychoactive Substances Bill, which has been tabled in the UK parliament.

If approved, the bill will allow NPS to be restricted on the basis on its psychoactive effect rather than the chemical make-up.

Cllr Orr has already written to Edinburgh East MP Tommy Sheppard to ask him to treat the bill as a “matter of urgency”.

He said: “Recently we have been finding scores of needles in churchyards and other secluded spaces across the Southside from those injecting NPSs.

“There does seem to have been a reduction in drug taking in tenement stairwells which is a relief of sorts, but the scale of the problem in South Edinburgh has been beyond what the authorities can cope with.

“Hopefully the forfeiture order will drastically reduce the supply of NPS in the Southside and make the area less of a hot spot for NPS users.”

The bill is being considered this week by a committee of MPs. An NPS ban has been in place in Ireland since 2010 but sceptics claim that a blanket ban will drive users to illegal street markets and the dark web.