Legislation to help prevent harm caused by legal highs has been welcomed by police as officer pledge to use their new powers.
The psychoactive substances act, which came into use today, will provide a blanket ban on the production, supply and importation of new psychoactive substances.
The law will change the way police tackle psychoactive substances and will make new drugs that appear on the market illegal quicker than ever before.
Police will be able to issue prohibition notices, premises notices, prohibition orders and premises orders, which allow officers or councils the power to stop people 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 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, such as buying them from a foreign website.
Northumbria Police has previously been granted a three-month closure order from magistrates to close down a Sunderland store which had been selling the chemicals.
Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner, Vera Baird, said: “Time and time again I have been raising the matter of so-called legal highs with the Home Office – appealing for much stronger action against those who make and sell these products.
“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. “We’ve been working hard with local partners as part of antisocial behaviour clampdowns in Sunderland and as part of a taskforce set up in Newcastle tackling the issue head on. “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.”
Southern Area Command Chief Inspector Jerry Pearson said: “This new psychoactive substances legislation is another tool for ourselves and our partners to use to help combat and tackle the problem of legal highs and gives us increased powers to help us take action where it matters most.
“Although this legislation should send a loud, legal and criminal warning out about legal highs the most serious message is definitely one of health and personal safety.
“No matter what any shop owner or dealer says or what any packaging claims - there is no way to know exactly what is in these ‘legal highs’ or what effect it will have on your body.
“By taking them you are playing roulette with your life and we will not stand-by and allow this to happen in our city. Our joint work to protect people and rid our city of these horrible and dangerous substances will continue.”