Page last updated at 18:01 GMT, Wednesday, 17 March 2010

'Legal high' seller backs mephedrone decriminalisation

Mephedrone is legal and widely available

The government is to look urgently into whether to ban the legal drug mephedrone following the deaths of two teenagers who had taken it.

A man who sells the drug openly on the internet has been talking to BBC Radio 4's PM programme about mephedrone and other legal highs.

Mushroom spores, the blue lotus and the San Pedro cactus might sound like the kind of products you could buy at your local garden centre.

They might not only be available there, but also from websites which sell the items as "legal highs".

'Proper business'

The site's owner, who has been selling the products since 2001, told Radio 4 that he moved into making mephedrone available only relatively recently and "didn't really want to do it".

Speaking anonymously, he told PM that his "trusted reputation" on the internet helped persuade him to add the now-controversial drug to his range.

"I'm interested in plants and their uses, but also internet marketing.

"In some ways, I think people are better off buying it from a trusted, taxpaying company rather than off someone on the street.

"It's not easy money. I'm trying to do this like a proper business," he added.

His website makes clear that all the products for sale are legal.

A lengthy disclaimer sets out that the goods are sold as "novelty specimens" or "for research purposes only".

It goes on to add: "All products should be treated as toxic or poisonous, and not taken internally by smoking, snorting, enemas or by any other means."

'Everyday life'

The legality of the drug will be examined "very speedily, very carefully" following the deaths of Louis Wainwright and Nicholas Smith, according to the government.

Advice from the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs is expected on 29 March.

But the legal high seller told PM that the arguments in favour of decriminalisation were clear as "current policies were not working".

"It would be a whole lot better if this country woke up to the fact that drugs are part of everyday life.

"Licensing these products, taxing them and researching them would be more sensible."

If mephedrone is made illegal, then the sales would come to an end - but the other products would continue to be available.

He insists he will get out of the business of selling legal highs once he has earned enough money to do so.

The website is, he claims, no more than a way of helping him achieve his long-term goal of working on plant tissue culture.

"Now I'm a parent, I'd rather do something more respectable, but I need the money to finance my next business," he said.

But with many parents worried about their children taking drugs, how does he view the possibility of his toddler son trying some of the products now being sold?

"I want to make my son a rounded individual so he can deal with life.

"I can make him aware that some things are not too bad in moderation, and maybe it is good to experiment.

"But the best thing I could teach him is that if you don't try something in the first place, you won't miss it."

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