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Head shops cashing in as herbal drugs escape ban

Head shop customers have found a loophole in the Government crackdown on "legal highs" with cannabis substitutes which do not contain any of the drug but mimic its effects.

One Dublin head shop was doing a booming trade last night as people flocked to buy herbal drugs with names like Neder Gold and Salvia.

These are not covered by the Government ban and can still be legally sold.

They can be smoked or used in tea and are said to create similar effects to cannabis.

New regulations left many head shops closed yesterday but last night customers queued at the Dublin Head Store in Temple Bar to buy the herbal cannabis substitutes.

Stronger cannabis alternatives marketed under the name of Spice or similar names have been banned under the new law which criminalises the sale of any synthetic cannabinoids.

The herbal drugs get around this regulation and a three gram packet of Neder Gold, which looks and smells like the herb oregano, was on sale for €25.

The packet claims to contain "a blend of herbs and herbal extracts including Damian, Wild Dagga, Kanna, Leonurus, Sibirius and Kratom".

Packaged in the UK where the same packet sells for £11.99 on the internet, the manufacturers say it can be "smoked in a joint or a pipe or water bong".

The packet also contains a health warning "Smoking Kills".

It says the product should not be taken without consulting a doctor if the consumer is on medication or has health problems. It also warns against using it while driving or using machinery or if pregnant.

It is not clear if these herbal products will be banned under the new Criminal Law (Psychoactive Substances) Bill 2010.

The Bill will put the onus on shop owners to prove they are not selling illegal products. It is intended to prevent the makers of banned products from circumventing the banned list with new chemical compounds.