A charity devoted to preventing substance misuse has launched a petition calling for legal highs to be banned as they come on the market.
Preventing Addiction Larne (PAL) launched the petition on October 15, and within 24 hours had attracted 500 signatures.
The petition, addressed to the Executive’s Health Minister Jim Wells, aims to persuade elected representatives to ban legal highs as soon as they appear on the market, and to close shops which sell them.
At the time of going to press, the petition featured 637 signatures. It comes five months after Dunluce Street hydroponics shop Northern Lights was raided by the Council and PSNI. It is understood that 300 packets of so-called legal highs were removed from sale at the premises.
Secretary and spokesperson for PAL Larne Beverley White told The Times: “We want to ban all legal highs as soon as they come on the market so shops are not even able to sell them. If they are banned straight away shops can be prosecuted if they sell them. By doing this in the Republic they closed down all the head shops. That would be our aim too.”
PAL has treated children as young as 11 for legal high addiction, and Beverley says that the group was forced to launch the petition due to politicians’ lack of action on the issue.
She explained: “We have been around for four years and since we started campaigning to ban these substances the politicians have told us they agree and are looking at it.
“But this should have been done and implemented by now. The Republic did it in a matter of weeks. We are standing up to say we don’t want any more waiting, before more lives are ruined.”
The PAL worker says that the public’s rapid response to the petition shows the strength of feeling in the local area. She continued: “It shows people have had enough. Larne is really badly affected by this. There is a lot of outrage and people are beginning to speak up and say they don’t want this. Something has to be done and now is the time to get moving.”
Many of those signing the petition are afraid for their children’s safety. One signatory said: “I have grandchildren and I want them to stay safe”, while another added: “I don’t want the kids getting hold of drugs! It’s getting out of control.”
PAL intends to print copies of the petition and leave them in local shops for those without internet access. The completed petition will be presented to the Health Minister Jim Wells at Stormont.
Beverley says that the petition is vital to “keep the pressure on” policitians to act. She concluded: “It’s a problem across the country. The main thing is to educate kids and their parents to make them more aware.
“This petition won’t get rid of the problem completely, but it’s a start and makes it less easily accessible.”
To sign the petition, visit PAL’s Facebook page.