War has been declared on ‘legal highs’ in Scarborough.
Police raided The Culture Counter with its owner accused of selling the substances to youths.
But with the sachets of the potions and powders on sale elsewhere throughout town, The Scarborough News is launching a campaign to have them made illegal – and we publish the shocking experiences of parents who want ‘legal highs’ banned. Detectives seized bags stuffed full of legal highs from the Raleigh Street shop on Wednesday morning, but with at least two other Scarborough stores still selling the over-the-counter substances, the man leading the police’s crackdown has backed our calls to rid them from our town.
“We all know why shop owners are selling them, but if you want to be a responsible shop owner then you shouldn’t be selling these to anybody,” said Chief Inspector Mark Grange.
“They can pretend they are plant food or whatever they want to call it, but the truth is, if you put this stuff on a plant it would probably die..
“There are under 18s in Scarborough trying these, with the view that they are OK, but they are designed to have the same effect as illegal drugs and they just shouldn’t be digested at all.”
Chief Inspector Grange’s ops unit swooped on the store at around 9.30am, in a raid that marked the culmination of months of planning and intelligence gathering.
The police sniffer dog was brought in as detectives scoured the premises, taking away evidence in bags and police knocked on nearby doors.
Officers were also spotted taking film footage. One customer, seemingly irate to find the shop closed, departed in a black Audi TT after police asked for his name.
At 7.50am, the 39-year-old owner was arrested from his home on suspicion of selling legal highs to under 18s, along with other unspecified offences.
Cash was also found at his property, with the police seizing it under the Proceeds of Crime Act.
Following the raid, landlord David Beckton, who owns the unit, claimed that as a tenant he “couldn’t fault” the suspect.
But he added: “I knew that he sold legal highs, but if I knew for a fact that he had been selling them to youngsters, he would be out.”
The store is one of a growing number of ‘head’ stores that have emerged nationally in recent years.
They sell legal highs, along with drug paraphernalia and ‘growing’ equipment, such as fertilizers and special lamps.
One neighbour said that when the shop opened last year, the equipment it sold lead him to believe it was ran by “young horticulturists”.
But since then, he claims it’s brought “unwelcome” clientèle into a once peaceful area, and resulting in him becoming a victim of crime three times.
“I’ve happily been here 20 years, but it’s crossed my mind to move since the shop opened,” said the man, who declined to give his name.
“I’ve been writing to Scarborough Council to get something done as I’m sick to death of it - and so is everybody else.”
Despite medical experts warnings, there are 100s of different brands of legal highs available for adults to buy over-the-counter.
Popular brands such as Clockwork Orange, Bliss and Mary Jane have been linked to poisoning, mental health problems and even death.
They often mirror many of the toxic chemicals found in illegal drugs.
If a substance is banned, it’s been known to have its ingredients altered, renamed and repackaged and put back on the market.
In conversation, detectives say the encounters they’ve had with legal highs have been “horrifying”.
And a spokesman for North Yorkshire Police said: “Selling ‘legal highs’ to underage people is a criminal offence and despite them being branded as ‘legal’ they are still potentially very harmful.
“Many legal highs contain similar chemical substances to illegal drugs and due to the limited research into them, what they exactly contain is unknown.
“What is also unknown is the impact ‘legal highs’ can have on you and your friends.”