Lincolnshire Police and Crime Commissioner Marc Jones is demanding that the government reclassifies synthetic drugs like Spice to grade A, calling them the “most severe public health issue we have faced in decades”.
The PCC has gained signatures from all 19 other Conservative PCCs in an open letter to Home Office ministers.
He said dealers “who peddle this misery” should be treated with the same severity as those dealing heroin.
The letter said so-called “zombie drugs” had effects on the individual and community that were “much worse” than cannabis and that police forces needed more support from other agencies to battle the rise in use.
Synthetic drugs, including Spice and Mamba, have lead to scenes of users slumped in unconscious states on street benched and shop doorways, taking drugs in plain sight and hundreds of emergency service callouts.
“The drugs are often referred to as “zombie drugs” due to the incapacitating and unpredictable psychoactive effects which manifest once taken; users are increasingly seen slumped on the streets in a state of semi-consciousness, often passed out, sometimes aggressive and always highly unpredictable,” said Mr Jones in the letter.
“The wide scale abuse of these debilitating drugs within towns, cities and even villages across the UK is one of the most severe public health issue we have faced in decades and presently the response to tackle the issue is woefully inadequate.
“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.”
He added that PCCs are “very supportive of government’s wish to tackle illegal substance misuse in general” but believe the reclassifying of synthetic drugs would be an important step in that battle.
“We would urge that synthetic cannabinoid products are reclassified from class B to class A. At present, the current justifications for the classification of B are rooted in the chemical similarities which Spice shares with cannabis. However, such parallels are purely chemical as the physical and psychological effects these substances have on their users are on a much more extreme scale to those of cannabis.
“In practice they are more comparable with class A drugs such as heroin and it is therefore imperative that it and the dealers who peddle this misery are treated with the same severity and concern.
“It is also vital that the level of support to those hooked on Spice is placed firmly on the agenda, including pathways away from criminalising the vulnerable where possible and ensuring appropriate services are in place to treat their addiction.”
Mr Jones pointed out synthetic drugs are being increasingly linked to deaths, with 27 in 2016 according to the Office for National Statistics and the number of ambulance calls involving these psychoactive drugs has reached a total of 233 in four months across Lincolnshire alone.
“This emphasizes the need for public health officials to address issue and take action now, but this will not happen without government direction,” he said.