Legal Advice

Dealing with use of illegal drugs in your pub

By Poppleston Allen

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Illegal drug trade Drug

Dealing with use of illegal drugs in your pub
We have recently commented on the introduction of the Psychoactive Substances Act 2016, which comes into force later this year and introduces a number of offences relating to ‘legal highs’.

The act has been surrounded by a degree of controversy with most notable comments relating to ‘poppers’ or Alkyl Nitrates. The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) has assessed the harms and psychoactivity of such products and its conclusions were recently published.

In the ACMD’s view, ‘poppers’ do not currently fall within the scope of the act and although there are some harms associated with the recreational use of ‘poppers’, their misuse “is not seen to be capable of having harmful effects sufficient to constitute a social problem”.

The Government has not yet commented upon the ACMD’s advice and it may remain up to individual premises whether or not to include poppers within a zero-tolerance drugs policy although other ‘legal highs’ should be included.

You may wish to err on the side of caution until the Government has confirmed its position, although all premises should have a written drugs policy in place.

Here are some important considerations:

  • Ensure that all staff members receive regular training on your policy and its enforcement and encourage the reporting of all incidents or suspicions of drug misuse.
  • Anti-drugs posters should be displayed indicating that you operate a ‘zero-tolerance’ policy.
  • Policies should give appropriate guidelines for staff to follow when drugs are either found or seized from customers and appropriate records should be maintained. A clear audit trail will protect the integrity of any staff members involved and also the licensee. Any records should be available for inspection by police.
  • If you suspect an individual is carrying illegal drugs, you should refuse admission or ask them to submit to being searched. If you still have suspicions you should call the police.
  • Carry out regular sweeps of toilet areas and maintain a visible record, which may act as a deterrent. You could also avoid providing flat surfaces in toilet cubicles.
  • The provision of CCTV may provide an effective deterrent, particularly if customers can see that this is monitored by staff members.
  • Work with local authorities and other premises in your area. Involvement in local Pubwatch schemes enables the sharing of information and can provide a consistent local approach to zero tolerance.
  • If you do find drugs in your premises, immediately secure them and contact the police. You may wish to invite a licensing officer, initially, to attend at your premises and you should make a note of any conversation, advice provided or action required.
  • Obvious signs of drug use include folded paper/drinking straws in the toilet areas, torn-up beer mats or payment for drinks with notes which have been tightly rolled or have traces of white powder on them.
  • The physical signs of drug use include dilated pupils, excessive sniffing, exuberant and loud behaviour, failing to engage or being withdrawn and excessive consumption of soft drinks.
  • Signs of drug dealing can include individuals having a number of short exchanges with apparent strangers, frequent visits to the toilet or external areas and, if there is CCTV, customers may look to have discussions in blind spots away from the cameras.

To ensure best practice, remain vigilant, ensure staff members are regularly trained and take prompt action where necessary.

Related topics Licensing law

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