Minister 'open-minded' on legal high solutions
- 1 May 2014
- From the section UK
Crime prevention minister Norman Baker has said "all options" are still being considered on the growing problem of legal highs, although the Home Office ruled out the licensing of shops.
"We have to come up with a solution," said Mr Baker, adding: "We haven't got a closed mind about any option."
Retailers wanting to sell "low harm" versions of drugs have formed a trade body to press for regulation.
So-called legal highs claimed 68 lives in 2012, according to coroners' tests.
Speaking to Radio 4's Today programme, the Liberal Democrat minister described the growing legal high market as "challenging, complicated and difficult".
"There is already a vast array of substances being sold on our streets, in our shops, and that's what we have to try to deal with because many of these are actually quite dangerous," he said.
And new substances were being produced "on a weekly basis", with many coming from abroad.
"They are inaccurately and unhelpfully called legal highs - some of them are actually illegal - but they're certainly not safe and people are consuming them," he told the programme.
Pressed on the idea of regulation and licensing of legal high shops, Mr Baker said: "We have to come up with a solution.
"We're open-minded about what that solution is... the expert panel I've set up is looking at all options, we haven't got a closed mind about any option."
Earlier this year, Mr Baker was quoted by the Times as suggesting that licensed outlets selling legal highs could be treated like sex shops - with their windows blacked out and under-18s barred - to show they were not "harmless".
The Home Office said at the time it had no intention of licensing such shops. A Home Office source told the BBC that position had not changed.