Scottish eye radical legal change in effort to close down legal high shops

THE Scottish government is considering a radical change to its law in a bid to close down head shops.

The proposal will shift drug laws away from banning specific substances to a blanket prohibition on the sale of drugs, including some legal substances.

The idea is based on a principle of Scottish law called mens rea: a mental intent to do harm or to cause benefit at the expense of others in a way which is deemed unacceptable.

Governments across the EU are struggling in their response to the sale of so-called “legal highs” in head shops.

Drug laws are mainly based on banning a particular substance.

Manufacturers respond by altering the chemicals in the old drug and creating a new substance, which is not illegal.

To complicate matters, some of the substances have legitimate purposes, such as plant foods or in producing plastics and solvents.

Fergus Ewing, Minister for Community Safety in the Scottish government, told The Times yesterday: “The current model criminalises the substance. We really need to have a model which criminalises the activity and the intent behind the activity.

“After all, the whole basis of Scots criminal law is that there is a mens rea — a mental intent to do harm or to cause benefit at the expense of others in a way which is unacceptable.

“The mens rea [in drug dealing] is making profit out of the sale of a substance, whether that substance at the moment has a legal use — plant food, in the case of mephedrone — or an illegal use.”


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