A letter written by Lincolnshire’s PCC and co-signed by Police and Crime Commissioners from across the country highlights the growing public health concerns around synthetic cannabinoid substances and the additional pressures their use is putting on police.
Use of these substances has risen dramatically since 2014. Figures from the Office of National Statistics show that from 1993-2014 there were three deaths linked to consumption of synthetic cannabinoids while between 2015 and 2017 there were 59.
Supporting the Lincolnshire PCC’s position, Alison Hernandez said: “We have seen a huge increase in the use of synthetic cannabinoid substances like Spice across Devon and Cornwall in recent years.
“It is becoming a growing concern for our communities – we’re not getting to the bottom of why people are taking these substances or giving them adequate support to get off them and in the meantime our police force, the NHS, our prisons and the public are having to deal with the consequences.
“We need to send a message that taking and dealing Spice is totally unacceptable.”
In his letter Lincolnshire PCC Marc Jones writes: “As public health and substance misuse services are not currently taking the lead in meeting this growing challenge it is falling to the police to respond to public concerns of community safety, adding yet further to policing demand without addressing the underlying issues.
“It must be made clear to the public and young people in particular just how dangerous and serious the taking of Spice is and the current classification as B does not do that.”
Speaking on behalf of the Torquay Chamber of Commerce, Chair Susie Colley says that spice is being used blatantly in Torquay.
“We are very conscious that the police are doing all they can to stop the drug being available but due to the cut backs in numbers this is proving challenging. MPs, Number 10 and the Courts must wake up to reality that austerity is now undermining the very infrastructure of our society,” she said.
“A hefty dose of realism should be served up to make them all understand that we need more police, more funding for social care and the Government needs to reclassify Spice and its derivatives as class A drugs.”
This letter comes amongst concerns that synthetic cannabinoids have reached epidemic levels in British prisons.
Earlier this year PCC Alison Hernandez called for increased security at Devon’s prisons after a report found that staff were struggling to cope with the volume of drugs entering HMP Exeter.
“At the moment drugs are rife in British prisons, criminality is allowed to flourish inside prison walls and gangs are exploiting fundamental weaknesses in security so they can carry out their illegal activity.” Alison said.
“The best thing that we can do for people who are serving a prison sentence is to keep them safe and away from drugs and give Prison Service staff the tools they need to allow them to do this.”
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