The government’s top drugs advisors have called on Home Secretary Theresa May to revisit proposals to introduce a blanket ban on so called ‘legal highs.’
The Psychoactive Substances Bill, which is due its second reading in the House of Commons in November, will introduce a blanket ban on the production, distribution, sale and supply of designer drugs following a number of deaths associated with their use. The maximum sentence under the Bill will be seven years in prison.
The new legislation has been proposed because the current system (which has banned over 500 substances) relies on each substance being judged independently.
The complicated nature of the existing regime means that manufacturers often produce new versions of drugs immediately after the previous forms have been banned. Usually by making slight amendments to the chemical structures involved. The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) initially raised a number of issues in a letter to the government in July. Concerns surrounded the potential for what they described as ‘serious unintended consequences’ requiring the production of an extensive list of exemptions to prevent common harmless substances being included, and the difficulty in proving the psychoactivity of substances in a court of law.
Professor Les Iversen, chair of the ACMD, is still hopeful changes can be made. “I don’t think any of the main issues have yet been resolved,” he said. “I am having a meeting with the Home Secretary next week at which I would hope I can discuss all these matters.”