Page last updated at 17:41 GMT, Wednesday, 7 April 2010 18:41 UK

Mephedrone ban backed by Commons

the "legal high" drug mephedrone
The Commons has given its backing to a ban on mephedrone

A ban on mephedrone and other so-called "legal highs" has been backed by MPs.

The drug was linked to several deaths and those breaching the ban could face up to 14 years in jail, Junior Home Office minister Alan Campbell said

The ban was backed by the Tories and the Lib Dems and comes after the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs said it should be a Class B drug.

However, one adviser resigned saying ministers wanted to appear to be "acting tough" before the election.

'Unscrupulous'

Speaking in the Commons, Mr Campbell said there was a "shared concern" about the harm drugs could do.

He said: "These controls also look to deal with future trends to stop unscrupulous illicit manufacturers working for organised criminals who seek to tweak substances to circumvent our laws."

Law enforcement would initially concentrate on those who peddled these "harmful" drugs, rather than young people found in possession, he said.

Harmful effects from the drug included a risk of heart and circulatory problems, as well as risk of fits and "agitated and paranoid states and hallucinations".

Health campaigns

The council has been rocked by a series of high-profile resignations in recent months after the chief drugs adviser, Professor David Nutt, was sacked in October for publicly disagreeing with the government's decision to reclassify cannabis.

Last week, Eric Carlin became the latest ACMD expert to resign, claiming ministers had pledged to ban mephedrone to appear to be "acting tough" in the run-up to the election.

Mr Campbell outlined other measures which had been taken to tackle mephedrone before it came into force.

These included a ban on imports, action under consumer protection rules and health awareness campaigns.

Shadow home affairs minister James Brokenshire said the Conservatives backed the ban.

"The Advisory Council for the Misuse of Drugs has given clear advice that mephedrone is a harmful, psychoactive substance and should be classified as a class B drug," he told the Commons.

Liberal Democrat spokesman Evan Harris said it was right to follow the "properly formulated" advice of the ACMD and therefore the Lib Dems supported the measure.

"That does not mean, however, that we suspend all inquiry into some of the issues and the possible consequences of this decision," Dr Harris said.



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