Council chiefs and police in South Tyneside have pledged to make the most of new powers linked to the ban on legal highs.
Northumbria Police says the new legislation will prevent harm caused by the chemicals and put a blanket ban in place on the production, supply and importation on new psychoactive substances (NPS).
The force has said it will change the way officers tackle their sale and make new drugs that appear on the market illegal quicker than ever before.
Action can include prohibition notices, premises notices, prohibition orders and premises orders, which allow police or local authorities to require people to stop stocking, selling or supplying psychoactive substances.
Officers have been given powers to stop and search people, vehicles and vessels, enter and search premises in accordance with a warrant, and to seize and destroy psychoactive substances.
While the new act does not criminalise simple possession of psychoactive substances it will be an offence to posses them within custodial institutions, or anywhere with intent to supply them to another.
Good progress is being made – but we’ve still got a way to go.Vera Baird
It is also an offence to import them by means such as buying them from a foreign website.
Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner, Vera Baird, said: “Finally we have the act I have been waiting for - which will bring an end to the open sale of these harmful and addictive drugs on our streets.
“I welcome the new powers for law enforcement to tackle this issue, which will be of great benefit to our officers. “Good progress is being made – but we’ve still got a way to go.
“These so-called ‘legal highs’ are not safe – it’s as simple as that and I remain fully committed to ensuring our officers do all they can to eradicate this abhorrent trade. “The new tough sentences show how seriously the matter is being taken and we will do all we can to get those responsible before the courts and locked up.”
Douglas McDougall, head of emergency care at North East Ambulance Service, said: “We welcome any changes that will prevent people from taking legal highs because they can have a serious impact on the health of the people taking them.
“This year alone we have sent an ambulance to over 700 patients who were experiencing serious or life threatening symptoms.
“This spike in activity has put pressure on our service and our ability to reach other patients.”
The new legislation has also been welcomed by South Tyneside Council.
Councillor Moira Smith, South Tyneside Council’s lead member for area management and community safety, said: “The council welcomes the introduction of the new act to help tackle this issue. “The new legislation and increased powers for officers across our Community Safety Partnership will enable swift and appropriate action to be taken and ensure South Tyneside remains a safe place to live, invest and bring up families.”