More than 450 high-street head shops and online sellers of legal highs face closure across Britain under the
blanket ban on new psychoactive substances to be debated in parliament on Tuesday.
The first Home Office estimate of the extent of the trade in legal highs, which are to be banned from April next year, describes it as an industry making a 40% profit of £32m a year on an annual turnover of £82m.
The psychoactive substances bill, which is to receive its second reading in the House of Lords on Tuesday, is designed to ban the trade in legal highs, probably from April next year. The legislation includes exemptions for everyday legitimate
psychoactive substances including alcohol, tobacco and caffeine and is also expected to include an exemption for legitimate medical and scientific research.
The ban will cover a range of synthetic chemical substances designed to mimic traditional illegal drugs such as cannabis and ecstasy and will extend to cover nitrous oxide -- laughing gas or hippy crack -- the second most popular recreational drug
The estimate of the size of the legal highs market is the first indication of the scale of the industry that faces closure as a result of the ban. The Home Office estimate that based on police and local authority sources there are about 335 high street
head shops for whom legal highs is a main source of income. On top of this there are a further 115 UK-based websites offering them for sale online.
The Home Office says there are a further 210 smaller suppliers of legal highs including tattoo parlours, sex shops and newsagents for whom the trade is not a major source of income but which will also be hit by the ban.
The bill is expected to receive widespread support in its second reading in the House of Lords on Tuesday. But Lady Meacher, of the all-party parliamentary group for drug policy reform, is expected to warn that the blanket ban will lead to young people
turning back to street dealers or the internet, and will not reduce their overall use.