LEGAL HIGH DEALERS STEP AHEAD OF LAWS; New Generation of 'Synthetic' Drugs Poses a Major Challenge to the Police and Legal System

Article excerpt

Byline: Sion Morgan

THE number of "legal highs" being sold in Wales is rapidly expanding as criminals make tiny alterations to banned substances to stay "one step ahead of the law".

Sellers are openly marketing the "synthetic drugs" - including one in South Wales who advertises his product as "the new mephedrone (a banned drug)".

He promises next-day delivery to Cardiff, Caerphilly, Newport, Torfaen and Blaenau Gwent.

There are concerns that police forces may struggle to identify and cope with the growing number of such substances being seized.

There are suggestions that dozens of new substances - which may be adapted from recently banned substances like mephedrone - are already available.

Detective Superintendent Rhiannon Kirkstruggling to analyse and classify the abundance of new chemical drugs being produced. Until they are identified, classified and subsequently outlawed if deemed necessary, they can be sold legally.

Det Supt Kirk said: "We seize, test and discover a lot of these new drugs.

"We find substances sold as mephedrone which do not contain any mephedrone and we find substances sold as other things that do contain mephedrone.

"We come across substances that are substituted with heroin and cocaine, some that are sold as plant seed online.

"Some criminals are altering the chemical makeup of newly banned drugs very slightly to stay one step ahead of the law.

"Therefore, from my point of view, the main focus for the police is to warn the public against taking these substances rather than waiting for the law to catch up.

"The fact of the matter is, even though they might be legal, that doesn't mean they can't kill you. They can."

Though there are currently legal highs set to be made illegal Class B drugs, Det Supt Kirk says many more similar drugs are yet to be classified by government advisers.

One of the most common "legal highs" currently on the market is NRG-2, an evolved version of the substance NRG-1, which was recommended for classification as a Class B drug in 2010 and is adapted from mephedrone, an amphetamine-like drug.

Yet websites are openly advertising NRG-2 as it is yet to be classified or banned under the Misuse of Drugs Act.

The web-based seller in South Wales sells the product for PS15 a gram.

Det Supt Kirk said she was aware of NRG-2. "A list of these widely available substances is produced for the crime unit on a regular basis and, yes, I believe that is one on the list," she said.

"From a policing point of view, we normally deal with white powder. That is what we find. …