Latest ‘legal high’ seized in raid on city centre store

Reporter:

Sam Parton & Laura Jones

A CITY centre shop selling the latest legal designer party drug to hit the market has been raided by Trading Standards officers.

The legal high, gogaine, a cocaine substitute, was being sold in Dr Hermans Hed Shop, on Eastgate Row, Chester.

Trading Standards Officers from Cheshire West and Chester Council joined PCSO Carl Humphreys in seizing 349 packets of the new substance which is said to have after-effects, including bleeding, extreme nausea, fever and insomnia. A number of teenagers in the Chester area have reportedly suffered ill effects after taking gogaine, according to council officials.

Andrew Reese, team leader for investigations at Trading Standards said a number of ‘test purchases’ had been carried out by undercover investigators prior to the raid.

Mr Reese added: “Following that test purchase we are really concerned that it is a dangerous substance and the labelling requirements aren’t all they should be.

“I think we've got grounds for seizing it based on that, then I think we need to make further inquiries and see if there are any further problems that need addressing.”

Gogaine is regarded as one of a new generation of designer drugs flooding the market that mimic the effects of illegal drugs like cocaine and ecstasy.

The store was raided by Trading Standards officers in April last year after the party drug mephedrone, known as Meow Meow, was sold there.

Mephedrone, which was traded as plant food and has a similar effect to ecstasy, was later banned in Britain after several deaths were linked to its use.

Producers of the unlicensed drug gogaine, which is typically traded online for about £25 a gram, boast that it is “100 per cent legal in the UK and Europe” and is thought to be four times stronger than mephedrone.

Mr Reese said it was difficult but not impossible to monitor online trading in the district.

He said: "Trading Standards look at supply and the suppliers who are dealing on the internet and deal with the issues when the suppliers are in our area because there are things we can do. We can identify where suppliers are supplying from and take appropriate action – so they are not outside the law at all.”

The red and orange packets seized by Trading Standards during the raid are sold as a “research chemical” and have been marked with the “18 certificate” symbol, a black cross with the word “harmful” and marked “not for human consumption”.

Mr Reese added: “It’s got a sign on it to tell us that it is a hazardous product and then when that has been classed as a hazardous product and we are not satisfied then we will carry out a raid.

“We are not aware of the situation that it is being used in at the moment and we have to see what the product actually is.”

Trading Standards officers have called on people who have bought and used the product to contact them as part of their investigation and information gathering process.

Council spokesman Ian Callister confirmed the Dr Hermans shop had been raided. He said: “Members of our Trading Standards Investigations Team seized 349 sachets of chemical substances on sale between £10 to £25. Sachets bore various names including Gogaine, Fury and Xtreme, Pink Panthers, MXE, Benzo Fury AMT and Charlie Sheen.

“Some were marked ‘not for human consumption’ and ‘not for sale to anyone under 18’.

“The raid – carried out under the Consumer Protection Act, 1987 – followed complaints of young people using the substances as a party drug and suffering illness as a result.

“Last month, police in Scotland warned about the effects of gogaine, regarded as one of a new generation of designer drugs mimicking illegal substances such as cocaine and ecstasy.

“It is said to be up to four times stronger than mephedrone, which was banned in Britain last year after several deaths were linked to its use.”

No one from Dr Hermans shop was available for comment.

See full story in the Leader

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