CamdenNewJournal

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Cheap and dangerous – it’s time to reclassify spice as Class A drug

Users say they would rather be on crack cocaine or heroin than spice, says Nickie Aiken, leader of Westminster Council

17 March, 2017 — By Alina Polianskaya

Leader of Westminster Council, Nickie Aiken 

THE case for spice being made A drug has never been more urgent.

The street population in towns and cities across the UK, including Westminster, is in the grip of a deadly epidemic as a result of this drug that is ruining lives.

At the end of January, spice was finally categorised as a Class B drug, in no small part due to the hard work of Westminster City Council in encouraging the government to introduce the law change. This has enabled the police to better tackle the dealers, and search and seize the drug from anyone in possession, moving them away from an immediate source of danger as well as helping to publicly raise the profile of its impact.

As I have said time and time again, we are not interested in criminalising the street population for using spice. Anyone who suggests otherwise is quite frankly, totally missing the point and potentially putting very vulnerable people at severe risk. But we now need to go much further, to tackle the root causes and cut off the supply of one of the cheapest and most dangerous drugs currently flooding the streets of our city.

Westminster City Council spends in excess of £6million a year on tackling rough sleeping and helping people off the streets; that’s more than any other local authority in the UK. However, spice has meant that the services we provide are under pressure. Our outreach teams tell us that they haven’t seen a crisis like this for decades.

We’ve also spoken to many users of hard drugs, who say that they would rather be on crack cocaine and heroin than having to deal with the consequences of taking synthetic cannabinoids such as spice, due to the extreme reactions and destructive withdrawal symptoms. I am horrified that, in recent months, it is believed that around a dozen people alone in Westminster may have died as a result of taking spice. Each death is an absolute tragedy.

I met Nick back in September when I was doing some filming with the BBC to build up awareness of this drug. He came up to me and said that I had to warn people about spice and the impact it is having. Two weeks later he died in the middle of the Strand on a Saturday afternoon having taken a few puffs of this cheap, accessible and readily available lethal drug.

That’s why, having spoken to local police, we believe that we now need to go even further by reclassifying synthetic cannabinoids as a Class A drug. This would enable us to elevate the profile of this drug and its associated problems, in particular its severity. But most importantly, it would compel the National Crime Agency to investigate the supply chains and trafficking of the drug.

It’s when all the agencies work together that something positive can happen. So I can’t emphasise strongly enough that the reclassification of this drug has nothing to do with criminalising its users. It’s about equipping the relevant authorities, police and crime agencies with the power to tackle the problem at its source and make the streets safer for everyone, particularly those people who desperately need our help and support.

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