Expert warns police have limited powers to deal with zombie drug

Former Derbyshire police drugs expert Stephen Holmes says one of the biggest problems with the drugs like Black Mamba and Spice is their visibility in our communities.

Thursday, 28th June 2018, 10:34 am
Updated Friday, 29th June 2018, 4:18 pm
Drugs expert Stephen Holmes.
Drugs expert Stephen Holmes.

“There have been police operations against the substances ever since they came along,” he said.

“It has been a problem in Chesterfield for many years.

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“The people using it particularly now are homeless people, rough sleepers and heavy drinkers.

“People who we used to see drunk in shop doorways are now out of their heads on synthetic cannabinoids.”

He said the number of users has actually reduced since it was made an illegal class B drug in 2016.

“People see it and consider it a major problem in the area because it is obvious that it is being used.

“The other drugs such as heroin and cocaine are used in private and the public don’t see what is going on.”

Mr Holmes said: “The number of users is relatively small, but people see them laying around in shop doorways or doing their statue impersonations in the street.

“It is not what we want in a shopping area.

“The problem is the users never know what it is they are taking.

“There are hundreds of different substances sold under the term Spice or Mamba.

“They think it is a specific drug, but it is whatever has been sent over – mainly from China and the Far East – and has arrived on the streets of Chesterfield. There are different substances and strengths.

“To be under the influence of these is not a criminal offence if there is no possession.

“Police powers of arrest are limited. They do use exclusion orders and keep people out of the town centres.

“It is down to town centre teams to move them on and encourage them into treatment programmes and encourage them to stop using it in other ways.

“For shop keepers the issue is to move them away from their shops.

“But they will move to other public places like parks and the police get other complaints.”

He added: “The majority of people using it are notoriously difficult to engage with as they are mostly people with other problems like rough sleepers, who think the drug is a solution to blot out their day.

“We have to educate them that illegal drugs are not a solution to anything. Go seek treatment and help.”