Norman Baker, the UK's crime prevention minister, is working to make legal highs totally illegal. According to the Times, he's leading an expert review into how to curb the growing sales and consumption of drugs that are legal only via loopholes. Baker wants to award extra power to the police and trading standards to clamp down on high street sellers and online merchants.
Typically, legal highs are substances that are modelled on established drugs, albeit with minute molecular alterations that slip them through a legal net and ensure that they do not contradict drug misuse laws. Often they are sold as "plant food" or "bath salts" in order to circumvent the rules.
Because legal highs are so new and exist on a constantly churning conveyor belt of production, there's little time to establish the long and short term side effects of each individual substance. We all know Krokodil is bad, because we've seen people's limbs falling off, but the infancy of these drugs means that any negative effects are yet to be fully documented. Most legal highs have not been tested for human consumption and deaths related to the drugs have risen rapidly – 68 people died in 2012 compared with 10 in 2009.
Earlier this year, Baker told the Guardian: "In particular, I am concerned by the shocking emergence of new substances designed to have similar effects to heroin and synthetic opiates, one of which was reported last month to have caused a death".
Some commenters believe that the government should work with laboratories to make synthetic drugs safer rather than chasing after manufacturers who will inevitably always remain ahead of the law, but Baker is expected to meet the Home Secretary this month to finalise ways to crack down on the sale of synthetic substances and make it harder for sellers to peddle their wares.