Hopefully most people in Barnsley know of my ongoing campaign against so-called ‘legal highs’ – the vile substances that mimic the effects of illegal drugs, such as ecstasy and cocaine, and are easily purchased in high street shops due to a loophole in the law.
We have seen people fitting, vomiting and collapsing on the streets of Barnsley after taking them. There have also been deaths linked to them, both here in Barnsley and across the country. And let’s not forget that they can be legally purchased by anyone, including children, because they are labelled as ‘bath salts’ or ‘herbal remedies’.
The danger isn’t just to individuals but to our communities too. Having met with local residents many times, I have heard harrowing stories about the blight of anti-social behaviour caused by people taking ‘legal highs’. This is often centred around those areas near to the so-called ‘head shops’ which sell these drugs, leaving residents fearful of walking their own streets.
Recently you may have seen stories in the media about the links to organised crime – with huge warehouses set up to create and distribute these drugs across the country – as well as awful stories about young people who ended up hospitalised, having thought that because the drugs were legal they were safe.
The good news is that my campaigning in Parliament has paid off and the Government has agreed to introduce a new law that will finally ban the sale of these substances.
However, creating a new law takes time and, meanwhile, our communities continue to pay the price. So I am keeping up the pressure on our local council and police force to find ways to deal with this problem while we wait for the new law to be introduced.
That is why I am holding a public meeting next Friday near the Sheffield Road, where so many of these incidents have happened. And I am bringing with me Dr Alan Billings, the Police and Crime Commissioner, to see for himself just how bad the situation is and to listen to the concerns of local residents.
Those who share my concerns are welcome to attend. It takes place at 5pm on Friday 19 June, at the King Street Flats Community Centre, S70 1JU.
We should be looking to the example set by local authorities such as Lincoln City Council. With overwhelming support from their local community, they have introduced their own local ban on taking ‘legal highs’ in their city centre – making the streets safer for everyone while also directing users towards routes for treatment.
Surely this is something we should be doing here in Barnsley?
Please do come along to the public meeting.
Let’s work together to make Barnsley better for everyone.
This article was first published in the Barnsley Chronicle on 12th June 2015.