A DRIVE to warn Solihull businesses of the dangers of selling legal highs saw more than 20 borough shops visited by police and Trading Standards officers.
New legislation banning products such as Pink Panthers, Herbal Haze and Exodus Damnation will come into force in April – leaving any retailer still selling them at risk of prosecution in both criminal and civil courts.
Chief Inspector Simon Inglis, who has been helping to drive the campaign to raise awareness of the changes said taking legal highs was like ‘playing Russian Roulette with your life’.
The effects of taking them vary from mild physical and mental issues right through to death. Last year 60 people died as a direct result of taking them.
Observer news editor Beth Sharp joined officers as they visited businesses to warn them of the new law.
In Solihull, officers only found one shop selling such products, priced at £5 per packet.
They spent the day advising owners selling new psychoactive substances (NPS), also known as legal highs, about the dangers.
The main concern of officers was that shops and suppliers may try and offload their products at a discounted rate before the new legislation comes into effect.
Ch Insp Inglis said the term ‘legal high’ was incredibly misleading and lures people into thinking the substances they are consuming are safe.
But this often could not be further from the truth.
He added the products were put in packaging to attract young people and some shops had no knowledge about legal highs so were grateful for the advice.
Rizvan Ashraf, the owner of AR Newborough Convenience Store in Shirley, was paid a visit by the officers to warn him about suppliers trying to sell off their goods.
He said: “I was happy when they walked in and made me aware of the products.
“It is putting us out of danger and saving lives.
“We have a duty to protect our young and vulnerable people.”
Ch Insp Inglis said Trading Standards were offering retailers advice and they were also using the drive as an opportunity to gather intelligence on who was supplying the products.
“We are also issuing a clear message that when the legislation changes we will be coming back and people will face the full force of the law if they are selling these products,” he added.
“These drugs are causing real harm in our communities and we are want proprietors to do the right thing and take them off their shelves.
“It is alarming that people are buying these and taking them without any idea of the short or long term consequences they could have.”