Legal high madness in Poland
It all begun in 2008. One man decided to open a shop selling 'smart drugs' (legal highs) in the city of Lodz - before this these substances were sold only on the Internet. A few days before the opening a Hummer limo full of hostesses in miniskirts started to drive around the city, inviting young people to come to see the new shop.
The owner of this first store was a Polish guy, who was working in England as a cleaner. In London he saw some legal high shops on Camden Town and he thought it would be good idea to start one in Poland. AWhen he returned home he borrowed money from a friend and started the business... now he is owner of over 100 shops, a couple of Porsches and a mansion on the Cote d'Azur in southern France.
The second shop was opened in Warsaw, very close to my university so I witnessed myself what is going on there. The photo above this article was taken at the opening the shop.
The first network of 'smart drugs' stores is called "dopalacze.com" what can be translated to "uppers.com". But now at least 10-15 networks that sell 'smart drugs' have been opened. They all work on a franchise basis, just like Mc'Donalds or Nike stores. So all you need to have is some money for the begining (about 2000 pounds) and the wholesaler will provide you all the substances, advertisement, legal support and so on. Every network have it's own products but the composition is often the same as in other stores.
Legal high stores started to grow very fast all around Poland. Now you can barely find a town with more than 5000 citizens, that doesn't have one. In 2009 over 500 shops were opened and about 150 only this summer! Sometimes on the main streets of popular holiday towns there are more smart drugs stores than ice-cream stands. There are even vending machines with smart drugs in some liquor stores: you just have to show your ID card to the clerk.
The government tried to fight this business by banning it's products but for every banned substance two new ones are created. In the beggining these shops were selling mostly "herbs" like Spice and pills that were supposed to work like ecstasy or speed. Then Mephedrone and it's derivatives came to 'smart shops', and became very popular. For the last 20 years the most popular drug after cannabis was amphetamine, now it's probably Mephedrone especially in major cities. About a quarter of people I know have tried it and some of them get really hooked. Mephedrone was banned in Poland a few weeks ago but there are already 3 substitutes.
But wait - there are 'smart drugs' available in other countries as well, so why they become SO popular in Poland? I think it's because of the really harsh drug laws we have over here. For one joint you can get a suspended sentence (so you are marked as criminal in official documents), dealers are really careful so it's not easy to find stuff and so on. Legal highs are always in the same shop (often 24/7), same price, same quality. In major cities you can ask for delivery to any place you want, for a small fee at any time of the day or night.
Now the Polish government wants to liberalise drug laws, so cases of possession of a small amount of drugs for personal use could be automatically discontinued. Maybe this will have an affect on reducing the consumption of 'smart drugs'.