Last Wednesday (10 June 2015) the Inner South Community Committee met and heard of the dangers of so-called ‘legal highs’.
‘Legal highs’ or New Psychoactive Substances (NPS) as they are properly called, exploit a loophole in the law and are designed to mimic illegal drugs such as Ecstasy, Cocaine and Cannabis. They are only legal in the sense that they are not (yet) illegal, but they are not safe or regulated by the government.
Inspector Nick Berry from the Safer Leeds Partnership explained that they are often sold as plant food, bath salts, or research chemicals. He said 113 deaths had been linked to use of NPS in 2013 and their use has increased markedly in recent years.
The drugs are sold from ‘Head Shops’ and over the internet. Safer Leeds have been working with West Yorkshire Trading Standards to encourage shops in Leeds to stop selling NPS and to stop their sale outside clubs.
A new bill is being debated in parliament to try and close the loophole by outlawing all psychoactive substances unless expressly exempted (eg caffeine, alcohol and medical drugs). The workshop was attended by about 30 residents and in the discussion it was suggested that decriminalisation was the way to combat drug abuse and that users were ‘self-medicating’ to deal with larger social issues. In reply Insp Berry said he had to work with the law as it is today and his concern was that young people don’t know what they’re taking when they buy ‘legal highs’.
The meeting went on to hear about spending on the Wellbeing Budget. The councillors approved a grant to Getaway Girls to expand their Safe Space project to South Leeds. The project aims to protect girls and young women from sexual exploitation, particularly in hot spots such as parks.
Another project that was funded was initiated by the new St Luke’s Tenants and Residents Group. It will see a new fence constructed on a grassed area on Bismarck Street to stop people driving across the area. Funding was also approved for an Older Person’s Event to be held at the Civic Hall and for additional Christmas Lights in Belle Isle, Middleton, Beeston and Holbeck.
The next meeting of the Inner South Community Committee will be held on Wednesday 9 September 2015.