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Calls for tougher punishment of spice users will ‘lead to more violence on streets’

Council leader says they must 'go even further to highlight dangers' of the once legal drug

10 March, 2017 — By William McLennan

Westminster Council Leader Cllr Nickie Aiken:’We are currently in the grip of an epidemic’

THE leader of Westminster Council has called for vulnerable users of a highly-addictive street drug to face even harsher punishment – claiming the ­borough is in “the grip of an epidemic”.

Cllr Nickie Aiken yesterday (Thursday) launched a campaign seeking to force the government to upgrade synthetic cannabis, known to users as “spice”, to Class A, alongside heroin and crack cocaine.

The man-made drug, which until last year had been legally sold in shops, is designed to mimic the effects of cannabis but is many times more potent and users often black out and collapse or suffer psychotic episodes. The majority of users are homeless addicts.

Cllr Aiken is hoping the drug will now be viewed even more seriously in the eyes of the law. If she ­succeeds, users could face seven years’ imprisonment, while dealers could be jailed for life.

Neil Woods, a former undercover police officer who spent more than a decade locking up heroin and crack dealers, said tougher penalties would not help users and described it as a “vicious attack on vulnerable people”.

Mr Woods, who now campaigns for a controlled and legalised drug market with the group Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, said: “The punitive measures do not make any difference to dealers. However, where the punishment is more extreme, the natural reaction of gangsters is to become much more brutal in order to defend themselves against the greater punitive measures. It’s a classic arms race. This will lead to more violent streets.”

Supply was outlawed with the introduction of the Psychoactive Substances Act in May, but personal possession and use had remained legal until it was reclassified as a Class B drug under the Misuse of Drugs Act in December, following months of lobbying by Westminster Conservatives.

Cllr Aiken said last night: “Today I’m calling on the government to reclassify Spice as a Class A drug due to its devastating impact among vulnerable rough sleepers. We are currently in the grip of an epidemic and I, along with the local police, believe we need to go even further to highlight the dangers that are associated with this drug.

“I’m proud that Westminster Council has led the way on this issue through working with the government to categorise Spice as a Class B drug, which has been instrumental in helping our services tackle this problem.”

When the drug was outlawed in December, police and Westminster Council said they were not looking to criminalise users, but said it gave them the power to confiscate the drug and prevent its open use in public places.

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