A schoolboy collapsed in the middle of Mexborough after taking a so-called ‘legal high’ drug - sparking a police investigation.
Now authorities are being urged to ban shops that sell the drugs, which a South Yorkshire Times investigation discovered are sold legally in the town.
Concerns have been raised about the sale of legal highs - substances which can imitate the effects of illegal drugs like cocaine and ecstasy but have been altered to make them within the law.
Emergency services were called to Mexborough High Street at 11.35am on Tuesday, September 23, after a 13-year-old boy collapsed.
Police said the youngster was “taken to hospital after reportedly taking a substance believed to be a so-called legal high” from a nearby shop. He was not seriously harmed and received a check up.
She confirmed officers spoke informally to Paul Pashley, owner of Paul’s Head Shop in the indoor market, amid claims, which Mr Pashley denies, that the substance had been bought by the boy or bought for him from the stall. No arrests were made but officers say they are “monitoring the situation.”
Charities, traders, health chiefs and politicians all expressed concern over the sale of legal highs, which are often labelled as ‘not for human consumption’.
Conisbrough man Tony Sellars, 70, who runs the Conisbrough and Denaby Drugs Awareness Group, said: “Legal highs are deadly as people don’t know what they are taking. These shops should be banned. Shopkeepers should refuse to sell them.”
Labour leader and Mexborough MP Ed Miliband described current laws on the issue as “hopelessly out-of-date.”
Mr Pashley, 43, a dad-of-two from Sheffield, said: “I did not sell it to him and I have CCTV to prove it. That was just rumours. I always ask for ID and never sell them to anyone under 18.
“Legal highs should be banned and if the Government takes action I would stop selling them. But right now I’m running a legal shop. I always advise people of the potential dangers.”
Meanwhile, traders described the emergence of head shops as a ‘growing problem’ and claimed three or four other stalls operate on the outdoor market.
Chris Chantler, 58, vice chairman of Mexborough’s market traders’ federation, said: “The federation would support a ban on these shops.”
A Doncaster Council spokesman said it did not have the power to push through emergency legislation to ban legal high shops but was assessing the size of the issue and working with traders to ensure products they sell are safe. A spokeswoman for the Mexborough Safer Neighbourhood Team said: “We are waiting on legislation and guidance from central Government.”
Crime Prevention Minister Norman Baker said: “The coalition Government has taken a range of actions to clamp down on so-called ‘legal’ highs, including banning more than 350 substances.”
He added a recent review looked at how Government agencies are tackling the issue and the outcome would be announced shortly.
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