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Legal highs: will 'temporary bans' solve UK drugs problem?

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The government has announced it's planning new legislation to stem the proliferation of so-called 'legal highs' in the UK.

It has already banned a range of substances over the past year, including naphyrone, mephedrone, GBL and other synthetic cannabinoids. However, it wants to be able to respond more quickly when a dangerous drug comes to market.

The proposed legislation will allow it to impose temporary 12 month bans on new substances pending review of permanent bans by the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs.

Minister for Crime Prevention James Brokenshire said: "The drugs market is changing and we need to adapt current laws to allow us to act more quickly.

"The temporary ban allows us to act straight away to stop new substances gaining a foothold in the market and help us tackle unscrupulous drug dealers trying to get round the law by peddling dangerous chemicals to young people.

"However, anyone tempted to try legal highs must understand it is not safe or sensible to take a substance when you do not know what it is or what is in it -- especially when some are claimed to be pond cleaner or bath salts."

Subject to parliamentary approval the system of temporary bans will be introduced by the end of 2011.

The government has also published a consultation on a new national drug strategy, which sets out the key themes of its vision for drugs policy -- which includes preventing drug taking, disrupting drug supply, strengthening enforcement, and promoting drug treatment and recovery.

This follows recent statements by Sir Iain Gilmore, the outgoing president of the Royal College of Physicians, and Nicholas Green, chairman of the Bar Council, who have both said the government needs to reconsider decriminalising drugs because the current blanket ban has failed to cut crime or improve health.

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