Legal High Ban To Come Into Effect On May 26, Government Announces After Delay

The ban on psychoactive substances was meant to come into force in April.

05/05/2016 18:20

A blanket ban on "legal highs" will come into force at the end of the month after it was delayed amid concerns it was impossible to enforce.

New laws passed to tackle the substances will take effect on May 26, after a huge amount of criticism that the bill was so vague it could not be used to sensibly police the use of them.

The legislation criminalises the production, distribution, sale and supply of psychoactive substances. Offenders face up to seven years in prison.

It had been widely expected that the measures would be rolled out in April but the start date was pushed back with ministers saying they needed to "ensure the readiness of all the activity necessary to enable the smooth implementation", the Press Association reports.

Niall Carson/PA Archive
The blanket ban is feared to be unenforceable

Last week, analysis by the Office for National Statistics said deaths linked to legal highs had more than tripled in two years.

The number increased over a 10-year period from 2004, with a total of 76 recorded during that time frame in England and Wales.

There was a "marked" rise between 2011 and 2013 when cases jumped from seven to 23.

Men in their 20s were found to be most at risk, while the average age for deaths involving the drugs is 28 - 10 years younger than the average for illegal drugs.

Plans to include poppers in the ban were abandoned after official advisers said the drug does not fall within the scope of the current definition of a psychoactive substance in the legislation.

The new act states that a substance produces a psychoactive effect "if, by stimulating or depressing the person's central nervous system, it affects the person's mental functioning or emotional state". 

A number of legitimate substances, such as food, alcohol, tobacco, nicotine, caffeine and medical products are excluded from the legislation.

The Government struggled to clarify whether poppers, a drug taken to make anal sex easier, would be banned.

It initially seemed to think they would be only for experts to say poppers did not meet the law's definition of 'legal high'.

"Psychoactive substances shatter lives and we owe it to all those who have lost loved ones to do everything we can to eradicate this abhorrent trade," Minister Karen Bradley said.

"The message is clear – so-called 'legal highs' are not safe."

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