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Psychoactive Substances Bill Edges Closer

In 2015, The Latest News reported on the UK’s proposed ‘Psychoactive Substances Bill’. The legislation was drawn up for several reasons, although one of the foremost is the growing problem with some people taking mood-enhancing drugs, especially those that are not currently classed as “illegal” (the so-called legal highs). One example is a substance called “Spice,” which is a laboratory-created cannabis substitute.

The Psychoactive Substances Bill aims to introduce a ban on the production, supply, possession with the intent to supply, and import and export, of psychoactive substances. The term psychoactive drug refers to a chemical substance that changes brain function and results in alterations in perception, mood, or consciousness.

The bill is aimed more at those who supply and sell such drugs. This includes a raft of civil and criminal sanctions. The legislation will not make mere possession an offense.

The bill has now passed through the scrutiny committees in the House of Commons. The committee stage is designed to iron out inconsistencies with the legislation (and to spot anything of importance that is missing) before the bill is put before parliament.

As a result of the various rounds of committee examinations, the bill has received several amendments. The Conservative Party have tabled an offense of possession of a psychoactive substance in prison. They have also asked for an exemption for any professional who needs to study the types of drugs covered, during the course of approved scientific research.

Labour parliamentarians have asked for alkyl nitrites to be added to the list of exempted substances and for education about the dangers of taking psychoactive substances to the educational curriculum for school children. Alkyl nitrates are more commonly known as poppers and are used by some people (mainly but not exclusively homosexual men), often frequenting more seedy establishments, to increase their sex drive. Whether these substances will make the final list is uncertain, given that the Conservative Member of Parliament Crispin Blunt has come out as a user of these particular chemical stimulants.

The progress of the bill can be tracked via the House of Commons website.

About the author

Tim Sandle

Dr. Tim Sandle is a chartered biologist and holds a first class honours degree in Applied Biology; a Masters degree in education; and has a doctorate from Keele University.