The “zombie drug” Spice is tearing communities apart and should be legally deemed a Class A substance, Tory police and crime commissioners have said.
In a letter to Home Secretary Sajid Javid, all 19 Conservative PCCs slammed the government’s “woefully inadequate” response to the “most severe public health issue we have faced in decades”.
The potent synthetic cannabinoid compounds – which come under the generic term Spice – are sweeping cities, towns and villages and cash-strapped police forces on the frontline are struggling to cope, the PCCs added.
Making Spice a Class A drug would mean “the dealers who peddle this misery are treated with the same severity and concern” as those
dealing in heroin and help officers tackle an “urgent public health issue that is growing in size”, they added.
Lincolnshire PCC Marc Jones, the author of the letter, said the currently Class B drug is having an effect “much worse both for the individual and society” than cannabis.
He added: “The drugs are often referred to as ‘zombie drugs’ due to the
incapacitating and unpredictable psychoactive effects which manifest once taken; users are increasingly seen slumped on the streets in a state of semi consciousness, often passed out, sometimes aggressive and always highly unpredictable.”
The Office for National Statistics found that the drug was linked to 27 deaths in 2016 and its use is thought to have exploded since then.
“The wide scale abuse of these debilitating drugs within towns, cities
and even villages across the UK is one of the most severe public health issue we have faced in decades and presently the response to tackle the issue is woefully inadequate,” Jones said.
He added: “We would urge that synthetic cannabinoid products are reclassified from Class B to Class A. At present, the current justifications for the classification of B are rooted in the chemical similarities which Spice shares with cannabis.
“However, such parallels are purely chemical, as the physical and psychological effects these substances have on their users are on a much more extreme scale to those of cannabis.
“In practice they are more comparable with Class A drugs such as heroin and it is therefore imperative that it and the dealers who peddle this misery are treated with the same severity and concern.”
Jones said the government must draft a new strategy for tackling Spice, which includes more support for addicts.
“It is also vital that the level of support to those hooked on Spice is placed firmly on the agenda, including pathways away from criminalising the vulnerable where possible and ensuring appropriate services are in place to treat their addiction,” he added.
A Home Office spokesperson said the government recognises “how dangerous synthetic cannabinoids can be...and the devastating impact that they can have on communities, families and the individuals taking them”.
“That is why we acted to control these substances as Class B drugs under the Misuse of Drugs Act and give the police the powers they need to take action, including making possession illegal and delivering longer sentences for dealers,” they added.
“Following two previous changes to legislation, the most recent controls for ‘third generation’ synthetic cannabinoids only came into effect in December 2016. However, as with all controlled drugs we will continue to monitor their impact.”