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Embargoed not for publication or broadcast until 00.01 Thursday 19 May - Festival organisers warned over the dangers of so-called 'legal highs'
organisers were today asked to review their measures for tackling
illicit drug use at their events by Baroness Browning, the
government's new minister for crime prevention and
antisocial behaviour reduction.
In an open letter to all the major summer events, Baroness Browning also expressed her concern over the demand for so-called 'legal highs' and called for increased vigilance.
The minister warned that some people may be openly selling potentially illegal and harmful substances at festivals under the guise of seemingly innocent 'bath salts' or 'plant food'.
Baroness Angela Browning said:
"While people selling these products may give the impression they are legal and safe, they are more than likely not legal, and are certainly not safe.
"Some of these substances are so novel anyone taking them is playing Russian roulette with their health. And if you are caught selling or buying them you could face arrest and prosecution.
"The festival season is one of our great summer traditions and we want people to enjoy it responsibly and without breaking the law. We know organisers are alert to this worrying trend and I am inviting them once again to review the measures they have in place. We want to help ensure festivals are as safe an environment as possible to help protect the public, especially young people, from the potential harms and risks of all drugs."
Public Health Minister Anne Milton said:
"For many people, music festivals are the highlight of their summer and it is important that they are able to enjoy themselves as safely as possible.
"'So-called 'legal highs' can contain a range of potentially very harmful chemicals, some of which may also be illegal to possess. Young people need to know that they can never be 100 per cent certain about what's in a 'legal high'. Just because its called a 'legal high', it doesn't mean that it is legal or safe. The effects and reactions people have to these can be unpredictable, especially when combined with alcohol.
"I value the assistance and co-operation of the festival organisers. We want to do all we can to stop people using drugs in the first place. We want young people to have a good time, but we want them to stay safe."
The government will be working with enforcement officers and organisers at a number of festivals over the summer to help identify emerging new psychoactive substances as part of work to improve our Forensic Early Warning System.
The government has also introduced legislative proposals for a new 12 month temporary banning order for new psychoactive substances to protect the public while our independent experts, the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD), assess the harms they pose.
NOTES TO EDITORS
1. For a copy of the letter please go to www.homeoffice.gov.uk/publications/media-centre/letter-festival-organisers
2. The government launched its drug strategy in December 2010. For more information please go to www.homeoffice.gov.uk/drugs/drug-strategy-2010/
3. For more information on temporary banning orders please go to www.homeoffice.gov.uk/publications/alcohol-drugs/drugs/temporary-bans/
4. For more information on the work of the ACMD please go to www.homeoffice.gov.uk/drugs/acmd/
5. Anyone seeking information on the risks and dangers of so called 'legal highs', as well as illegal drugs, should go to the FRANK website www.talktofrank.com or call the confidential helpline on 0800 77 66 00.
6. For further information please contact the Home Office press office.
Home Office Press Office
Phone: 020 7035 3535