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Incense could be a legal high, peers are warned

24 July 2015


In the air: Cardinal Nichols celebrates a requiem mass for King Richard III, in Holy Cross, Leicester, on 23 March 

In the air: Cardinal Nichols celebrates a requiem mass for King Richard III, in Holy Cross, Leicester, on 23 March 

PRIESTS using incense could be criminalised under a new law being introduced by the Government to crack down on so-called “legal highs”, members of the House of Lords were warned last week.

The Psychoactive Substances Bill, debated on Tuesday of last week at the report stage in the House of Lords, seeks to hand prison sentences of up to seven years to those who produce, distribute, supply, or sell legal highs. The advisory council on the misuse of drugs is concerned, however, that the definitions in the Bill are too wide, and that helpful herbal medicines could become illegal. There are also concerns that it may be difficult to prove that a substance is psychoactive.

The Labour peer Lord Howarth said: “We really do not want to criminalise priests. The more vigorously the priest swings the censer, the more incense is let loose into the body of the church. We have to be very careful we don’t unintentionally criminalise either priests or florists because, of course, flowers have psychoactive effects.”

Lord Howarth argued for the word “synthetic” to be added to the definition to protect priests and florists.

The Home Office minister Lord Bates said that the Government was not ruling out the term “synthetic”, but did not want to create loopholes that could be exploited by the producers of legal highs. He said that the definition had been drawn widely in an attempt to ensure a blanket ban in a fast-moving field.

The Vicar of St Cuthbert’s, Croxteth Park, in Liverpool, the Revd Alastair Prince, last week used his Sunday sermon to warn against nitrous oxide, or “laughing gas”, a legal high, after finding 52 canisters of it strewn across the grounds of his church. He held up the canisters during the Sunday service to inform the congregation about the dangers of the drug.

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