Guernsey may classify club drug mephedrone

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Authorities on the Channel Island of Guernsey are considering classifying the "legal high" stimulant mephedrone as a class A drug, it emerged today.

The drug, which has become popular on the UK club scene in recent months, is legal in the UK but is subject to a Government safety probe.

Its side effects are said include psychosis, weight loss and insomnia, and drug officials on Guernsey said they are looking at "proactive" action.

Andrea Nightingale, Guernsey's drug and alcohol co-ordinator, said: "You look at the effects and they're likened to ecstasy and possibly cocaine - these are class A drugs.

"So presumably, if (mephedrone is) causing the same effect, it may be that it's put at that level."

She added: "We need to be proactive as far as an island is concerned.

"If the support isn't there from the UK at this time and it's going to be a lengthy process then possibly we have to feel we can't wait and that we go it alone."

Island authorities are conducting their own research into the drug's effects

The UK Government has asked the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs to assess the effects of mephedrone - also known as "miaow" or "plant food".

Les King, a former member of the ACMD and former head of the drugs intelligence unit in the Forensic Science Service, said the Government should introduce a system of "emergency scheduling" similar to that used in Germany and the US, to permit the immediate banning of legal highs like mephedrone.

Mephedrone is one of a group of cathinone-based drugs derived from the active ingredient in the plant khat, which is widely chewed in east Africa.

Dr King said that the cathinones are only one of many novel narcotics developed at an increasingly swift rate by labs in China with the deliberate intention of bypassing drug control laws in rich nations.

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "The legislative process is quite slow here. I think what we need here is a fast-track option - emergency scheduling, which is used effectively in Germany and the US - where a minister can decide overnight to ban substances on a temporary basis over six months or perhaps a year.

"At the end of that time, you would have to make a firm decision on what you are going to do.

"At the moment, because legislation has to go through Parliament, it inevitably takes some time."

Dr King warned: "Mephedrone and the cathinones generally are not the first and won't be the last of the groups of legal highs. We have seen a whole sequence of them over recent years and we know there are more waiting in the wings."