The pointlessness of banning mephedrone
The UK's mephedrone ban has failed, despite no longer being a legal high it is still available in much the same way it was prior to the ban. Ken Checinski, medical advisor of the charity, Addaction, warned that illegal highs were being shipped as legal highs in yesterday’s News of the World (a tabloid paper owned by Rupert Murdoch's News International).
This comes after a steady stream of test results from laboratories testing the new generation of legal highs found that they almost always contained illegal drugs, previously legal highs that had now been banned. These drugs are still being sold online and shipped through the postal system. They are still being sold in headshops and other retail premises.
It gets worse, the retailers of ’products’ like Ivory Wave and Benzo Fury and more importantly the users have little or no idea what they contain. The Release helpline has taken calls from individuals who have bought ‘legal highs’ in good faith either for personal use or for re-sale and have found that they are in possession of illegal drugs.
Besides the legal risk to the individual, there are the public health implications of the public taking unknown substances. At least when mephedrone was legal, hospital staff had some idea what they were dealing with when confronted with the adverse effects of the drug. Now they all have these brand names which are in themselves not consistent. Online forums are alive with discussion about which version of Ivory Wave is dangerous and which is not. This is a very frightening situation with extreme ramifications for the health of many unsuspecting consumers.
Mephedrone was created to get around the law and we still have limited knowledge about its impact upon the health of users. The banning of mephedrone has created this even worse situation and allowed it’s simply to continue relatively unhindered.
However the selling of drugs online doesn’t just involve the pretence of a trade in legal highs. There are websites selling cannabis online and the postal system appears to be working well enough for them as a delivery mechanism shipping into the UK from Holland. Their clients are willing to pay far more for their cannabis they would have to pay from a more traditional dealer.
It is easy to find people offering to sell you all sorts of drugs online. Heroin, cocaine and anything else you could possibly want. How many of these adverts are ‘real’ rather than an elaborate if obvious scam is open to question. However there are clear indications that this trade is actually taking place and only inhibited to a limited extent by the authorities.
Professor Neil McKegney has talked about only 1% of heroin destined for the Scottish market being intercepted by the authorities. Yet he is prepared to acknowledge the total failure of the authorities to seriously hinder the supply of drugs into the UK. The UK Border Authority's current budget is £2billion a year and with the support of SOCA and the UK’s police forces they can only achieve this tiny reduction in the supply of drugs.
The public at large, especially those under fifty are well aware of how widespread drug culture is in this country and how easily available drugs are even in the most isolated rural locations. Our politicians risk their creditability by going along with the myth makers in the media that this expensive and total failure isn’t happening.
In this age of austerity can we afford to spend vast sums to make such a limited impact upon the supply of drugs? Continuing with this cat and mouse game, which much like in Tom and Jerry, the mouse always appears to win, would be the height of foolishness.