Worksop is on high alert after a warning that the so-called zombie drugs, spice and black mamba, now represent “the most severe public-health problem we have faced in decades”.
The warning, issued by 20 of the country’s police and crime commissioners, comes at the end of a summer in which Bassetlaw District Council stepped up its fight against spice and black mamba which are blighting Worksop town centre.
The council is backing Project Steppingstones, which aims to provide support for users and work closely with the police to target dealers in a bid to clamp down on the use of the former legal highs, which are sometimes referred to as synthetic cannabis.
But at a higher level, the police are making efforts to persuade the government to reclassify the drugs in the same category as heroin and cocaine.
In an open letter to Home Office ministers, Marc Jones, the police and crime commissioner for Lincolnshire, called for action so that “the dealers who peddle this misery are treated with severity and concern”.
The letter, which has been signed by all of the country’s Conservative police and crime commissioners, says: “Users are increasingly seen slumped on the streets in a state of semi-consciousness, often passed out, sometimes aggressive and always highly unpredictable.
“This is not cannabis. It really is a very different animal, and we need to eradicate it from our streets.
“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 problems we have faced in decades and, presently, the response to tackle it is woefully inadequate.”
Spice and black mamba are designed to mimic the effects of cannabis but can have severe debilitating effects and can leave users in a zombie-like state.
Mr Jones feels the reclassification of such drugs from class B to class A would raise the issue in the minds of the public and mean harsher sentences for dealers. He also calls for more services to be put in places to help addicts.
Meanwhile, in Worksop, the holistic approach of Project Steppingstones is continuing to make progress, by aligning enforcement with rehabilitation.
Earlier this summer, Coun Jo White, deputy leader of Bassetlaw District Council, said: “We listened to concerns from residents and shopkeepers, including some shoppers who were scared to enter the town centre. We knew we had to take action.
“Some might think we are being soft in this approach. But it’s important to understand that these problems often derive from crisis in childhood and troubled backgrounds. It’s crucial that the right support is available to them.”
Worksop police also urged people to support them in “weeding out those who supply spice and black mamba”. They were asked to pass on information by ringing 101.
The Home Office said it recognised how dangerous synthetic cannabis could be and was continuing to monitor the impact of such drugs.
A spokesperson said: “We have acted to control these substances as class B drugs under the Misuse Of Drugs Act and have given the police powers to take action, including making possession illegal and delivering longer sentences for dealers.”