MPs call for reclassification of synthetic cannabis drugs
By Elizabeth Arnold, Press Association Political Staff
The "growing epidemic" of cheap drugs such as spice and black mamba is turning Britain's town centres into "places that people fear to go", a Tory MP has said.
Ben Bradley urged the Government to reclassify synthetic cannabinoids as class A drugs, warning their prevalence was becoming a "serious national problem".
The MP for Mansfield laid bare the "devastating impact" on communities, saying: "Synthetic cannabis is one of the cheapest drugs on the market but also one of the strongest.
"The effects of these drugs can leave users resembling zombies slumped in a state of semi-consciousness sometimes foaming at the mouth, sometimes passed out in the street...
"This is clearly having a negative impact on town centres and local economies, it's causing anxiety amongst shoppers and business owners, decreasing footfall and discouraging families from spending the day in the town centre."
Speaking during his Westminster Hall debate on the reclassification of synthetic cannabinoids, Mr Bradley said the current class B classification was limiting the action that local services and the police could take, with forces "struggling to deal with it on a local level".
Such drugs, he added, were placing an "absolutely huge" resource drain on the NHS with extra strain being put on ambulance services, while prison officers were having to go home sick having inhaled fumes from people taking the drugs.
Mr Bradley said one prime spot for users was right outside his constituency office and one of his staff members had regularly resuscitated people.
He said: "The illegal use of these drugs is a threat to public health and a matter of public concern.
"As it was outlined by 20 police and crime commissioners, these drugs are causing one of the most severe public health issues we have faced in decades. Quite frankly for me, enough is enough."
The physical and psychological impacts of such drugs were more comparable with class A drugs like ketamine or heroin yet this was not reflected in law, he said.
He added: "It's not right to let a small minority of people have such a huge impact on entire towns and on the lives of thousands by turning our town centres into places that people fear to go, we can't continue to let our children see this behaviour and think that it's normal.
"I don't think we have the ability to wait any longer - if dealers and manufacturers aren't faced with harsh repercussions then what state will our towns be in this time next year or in five years' time?"
Conservative Vicky Ford (Chelmsford) said there was not strong enough sentencing for drugs barons at the top.
Labour's Ruth Smeeth (Stoke-on-Trent North) said there had been a "huge spike" in the use of such drugs including monkey dust, adding: "These drugs are cheap, powerful and dangerous and they a wreaking havoc on our communities."
Constituents, she said, were facing an "obstacle course of rubbish and drug paraphernalia", with one describing their street as "something out of a zombie film".
She said one woman had a drug user jump into her car outside her house and refuse to get out, adding: "My constituent's four-year-old daughter was in the car. She was forced to leap out in terror and is now terrified."