A lot of us have had a rough time in 2016, but spare a thought this Christmas for the families of the poor men and women of the once proud legal highs industry. There’ll be no presents under the tree for their kids this year, not since the Roflcopter factories were shuttered and all the Meow Meow labs closed down. Things just haven’t been the same since the 26th of May this year, when the Psychoactive Substances Act came into effect, banning the sale of legal highs in the UK.
When the law was introduced, some police chiefs said it would be impossible to enforce. And at first glance it looks like they were right. Go online and you’ll still find products being sold that look very similar to all of the formerly legal party powders that are now illegal to sell in the UK. However, my first thought is that, to be sold, they must be legal, meaning they also must not have any kind of “psychoactive effect” on the human brain, because otherwise they’d be blocked under the act.
There was only one way to find out: buy a load of them and review them one by one. So I set off for Camden, spiritual home of the British head shop, to find out what had managed to slip through the ban.
“We don’t sell that stuff any more – all banned now,” one shopkeeper on the high street told me. “Stop taking that shit!” shouted another, which was a bit rich considering his shop was 90 percent bongs. I think they thought I was a narc, and you can’t blame them for being wary given that police raided those same shops as the ban was coming in.
The last place still promising you “a one stop shop for all your party needs” this side of the dark web is the online ICE head shop, which will still deliver a range of “research chemicals” straight to your door. I ordered the lot.