By Max Daly
Around 15 months ago, Blackburn's main head shop stopped selling legal highs. After pressure from former MP Jack Straw, Trading Standards, police and the local paper, Smoker's World packed in their trade of research chemicals and synthetic substitutes – the idea being the consumption of these substances would plummet if they weren't so easily available.
Virtually overnight, however, the shop's legal high trade had been incorporated into the business of a local gang of class A drug dealers.
According to a senior investigator in the region who spoke to VICE, the bulk of the shop's legal high stock was quickly sold off on the cheap, at £1 a bag, to the drug-dealing outfit, a family notorious in the area for selling a range of drugs including crack and heroin. (Sanjay Asal, owner of Smoker's World, denied selling off his stock to the drug dealers, although he admitted the family had previously bought in bulk from him.)
Taking advantage of the gap in the market that had been conveniently opened up for them, the drug dealers augmented their existing involvement in legal high sales (they sold under-the-counter from a high street "charity" shop they ran) by setting up a 24/7 delivery business using Facebook and mobile phones. The lion's share of these sales involved synthetic weed, a product with a big following among Blackburn's disenfranchised teenagers.
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