The blanket ban on legal highs will be enforced from 26th May in England and Wales despite the initial delay.
The Psychoactive Substances Act is due to come into effect on 6th April but was put back due to claims that the term ‘psychoactivity’ could cause confusion and therefore not be enforced by the police and prosecutors.
Once this legislation officially begins, it will ban the trade of legal highs – which are chemicals that give the user similar effects as drugs including ecstasy and cannabis – but does not make their possession outside a prison a criminal offence.
Home Office minister Karen Brady said: “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."
“This Act will bring to an end the open sale on our high streets of these potentially harmful drugs and deliver new powers for law enforcement to tackle this issue at every level in communities, at our borders, on UK websites and in our prisons.”
Certain substances have been excluded from the blanket ban as they are not thought to have a direct impact on the brain. These include tea, coffee, alcohol and an alkyl nitrate known as ‘poppers’.
One of our Criminal Defence Solicitors, Graham Heathcote said: "This new legislation seems to throw up several problematic issues. First, it is claimed that legal highs can “shatter lives”, as is the case with many existing prescribed drugs, possession of which is an offence punishable with imprisonment. Yet possession of these psychoactive substances will not be an offence at all, which seems to defy logic. Secondly, in each case there will need to be proof from an appropriately qualified chemist, of the identity of the item and its psychoactive properties – this will involve an additional cost to the public purse at a time when the austerity drum is still being beat loudly. Thirdly, probably the three most commonly used substances with psychoactive qualities, namely tea, coffee and alcohol, are specifically excluded, yet more people die from alcohol misuse every year than all the substances on the proposed list. There may be interesting times ahead."