The rumour that the Psychoactive Substances Bill makes the drinking of ‘Hot Chocolate’ a serious criminal offence is, unsurprisingly, not true.
However, it is likely some innocuous substances will become technically unlawful as a result of this legislation, which is aimed at destroying the dangerous trade in ‘legal highs’. The bill also attempts to make substances that have not even been invented yet unlawful.
The law states that any substance (unless on the exempted list i.e. alcohol, caffeine, tobacco) that produces a psychoactive effect in a person, by stimulating or depressing the person’s central nervous system, which then effects the person’s mental functioning or emotional state, will be banned. A person consumes the substance if they smell it or allows it to enter their body in any way.
There is clear evidence that something needs to be done about ‘legal highs’, there has been a surge in deaths and it is only recently that five students from Lancaster University were admitted to hospital, after taking what was believed to be a synthetic cannabis-like substance.
Why someone would want to consume something marked as plant food – unfit for human consumption, I don’t know but sales are soaring.
This proposed blanket ban on every potential psychoactive substance, including laughing gas, sets a new precedent for this country.
Whilst well intentioned, there are concerns it is a further sign of a burgeoning nanny state. For example, why is it lawful for someone to drink ten pints of lager but unlawful for the same person to inhale a small amount of laughing gas?
The main reason behind this legislation is public safety, as the use of psychoactive substances can be dangerous. Using the same argument, excessive consumption of alcohol, food and the use of tobacco are also dangerous, but no attempt is being made to criminalise those activities.
‘Legal highs’ are not going to disappear because of the Psychoactive Substances Bill, the same as the use of controlled drugs has not ended because of the Misuse of Drugs Act.
This bill is likely to create yet another underground criminal trade, leading to associated criminal activity, with few public health benefits.
Some new legal high enforcement laws are needed, but it may be better to concentrate efforts on educating people about the harms of taking legal highs, drugs, alcohol, tobacco and so on. The Psychoactive Substance Bill could simply cause more problems than it solves!