Drugs-related paraphernalia alleged to have been sold in Aldershot and Farnborough
Rushmoor Borough Council has pledged to push for government laws banning the sale of drug-related paraphernalia and legal highs after a number of shops in Aldershot were found to be stocking such items.
At a meeting of the council’s cabinet on Tuesday September 3), councillors endorsed the recommendation to continue to explore current legislation and controls and encourage stricter rules to be introduced if these were found to be inadequate.
The items referred to in the meeting include pipes and bongs, spoons and wraps, as well as items that could be considered drug paraphernalia despite having legitimate uses, such as ash trays printed with cannabis leaf designs. The latter items are of particular concern to the council.
Legal highs, which mimic the effects of recreational drugs, can currently be legally marketed as things like plant food or research chemicals under UK law.
Rushmoor's environmental health team is working with Hampshire County Council on the matter, and a working party, including science and substance misuse experts and run by the county council’s trading standards team, has been set up to investigate further across Hampshire.
Rushmoor councillor Sue Carter put forward the original motion in February last year expressing concern that paraphernalia was allegedly available at markets in Aldershot and Farnborough. It was said that one shop in Aldershot had sold items considered legal highs.
Cabinet supported this motion and Cllr Carter said she was pleased her concerns had been supported, and that Hampshire Constabulary had praised the council’s work.
“I was at a licensing hearing and we saw lots of evidence,” she said. “Things like ash trays, bongs and scales – do people really need to see that?
“Children get to learn about these things anyway but they don't need to see that. If they are going into shops they should see comics and sweets.
“Cigarettes are in cupboards now when we go into shops, so I don’t think these items should be marketed in this way.
“I’d like to protect the young for as long as they are and as a council we should be pushing this message.”
A Hampshire Trading Standards spokesman confirmed that, currently, consumers were not protected from legal highs and the legal position is untested and uncertain.
“The scope for successful enforcement action against retailers is currently being considered by the working group, but at present it is thought that an outright ban or closure of premises is not possible,” a statement read.
“Despite the limitations of existing consumer protection law, action to prevent the open retail sale of legal highs is a worthwhile aim and could help impact upon public perceptions that legal highs are safe to consume.”
Due to the lack of legislation, council officers are currently only able to communicate with retailers and persuade them not to stock certain items.
First Home Choice manager Ram Sidana said he sold legitimate items such as sheesha pipes, used for smoking flavoured tobacco, at the Wellington Street shop, but said he felt demand was so low for such items that he would not continue for much longer.
“Once we have sold them we will not stock them any more,” he said.
“Maybe once a fortnight someone would buy one if they were having a party but they are not popular.”
He defended the right of businesses to stock certain items as long as they were legal, but added that he was happy to co-operate with the council. Ash trays like those being considered by the council were sold at the shop up until last week but Mr Sidana said he had agreed to take these off the shelves after being told they potentially encouraged drug use.