The Home Office has ruled out licensing shops to sell ‘legal highs’, following Norman Baker’s comments to The Times.
Baker told the paper: “We should maybe look at licensing them like sex shops with blacked-out windows and not allowing under-18s in.”
The Home Office said, however, that his comments had been taken out of context.
Earlier this week the Home Office hosted a summit on the problem of legal highs.
The latest UK figures have linked the drugs to 68 deaths in 2012, up from 10 in 2009.
At the summit, Baker had reportedly asked a panel of experts to review how shops selling legal highs, also known as “head shops”, would work.
Jeremy Sare, who works for the Angelus Foundation, said that a licensing system would “legitimise” the use of legal highs.
However, the Home Office said that it has “no intention of regulating or licensing legal highs”.
“On the contrary, we are working to consider how current legislation can be toughened to combat this dangerous trade and ensure those involved in breaking the law are brought to justice”, a spokesman added.
So far the Government has banned over 250 substances, which are often marketed as plant food or bath salts.
Baker told the summit that “having new substances created almost on a weekly basis” meant that the Government was inevitably “chasing after those substances.
“I want to see whether we can get ahead of those substances, rather than chasing after them,” he added.
Several groups were present at the summit, including Metropolitan police officers, crown prosecutors, drug charities and senior national crime agency officers.
Jason Nock, father to a one-year-old girl, died after taking a morphine-like ‘legal high’.
In January an inquest found that he had nearly five times the fatal dose of the drug in his blood.
Baker told The Times he was concerned about the “shocking emergence of new substances”, including those “designed to have similar effects to heroin and synthetic opiates”.
The summit will be asked to report within the next few months on how to improve legislation to tackle the problem.