A DUP motion calling for the introduction of new legislation to tackle so-called ‘legal highs’ will be debated in the Northern Ireland Assembly today. The Party’s manifesto for the recent General Election called for action in Parliament to introduce legislation to tackle new psychoactive substances and today’s motion is asking the Health Minister to work with the Home Office to ensure that legislation is introduced across the United Kingdom.

The motion is being proposed by North Down MLA Alex Easton and speaking ahead of the debate he said, ‘So-called ‘legal highs’ can have a devastating impact on lives and it is vital that we have strong and effective legislation to tackle these potentially lethal substances. It is a complex subject on which to legislate however and we are aware of the fact of the efforts which will be put into attempts to circumvent any legislation banning these substances.

In our recent manifesto we called for a new UK-wide offence to deal with so-called ‘head shops’ by prohibiting distribution of these substances for human consumption and to classify synthetic cannabinoids based on effects on the brain rather than their chemical composition. These were two of the key recommendations from the Home Office Expert Panel Review instigated following correspondence from the DUP Health Minister in Northern Ireland back in 2013.

It is vital that the new Health Minister continues to work with the Home Office to tackle these psychoactive substances. There have been successful efforts to tackle the shops selling these substances and my colleagues Gavin Robinson and Tom Buchanan were to the fore of these efforts in Belfast and Omagh.

There is no silver bullet to tackle the scourge of these substances but we cannot sit back whilst people in our society have their lives put at risk by these dangerous substances and those who peddle them. The Assembly can today speak loudly on this issue and I would hope that the new Government at Westminster will listen and finally take action which will help save lives.’