The New Psychoactive Substance act was proposed in response to an increase of psychoactive substances flooding onto the UK market with little legislation to control their use and sale. Previously referred to as 'Legal Highs', they were not legally regulated or controlled under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971.
So, what does it mean?
The new act makes it illegal to produce, supply or offer to supply any NPS if it is likely to be used for its psychoactive effects, regardless for its potential to harm. The act also makes it an offence to possess NPS in a custodial institution. The penalty for contravention of the act can carry up to seven years in prison.
Are existing laws being replaced?
Yes and no. The Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 has not changed and will continue to regulate existing illegal drugs. However the Intoxicating Substances Act 1985 has been scrapped.
So, what happens if I am found in possession of NPS?
Under the new act, stop search powers were extended and therfore a police officer may stop and search you or your vehicle. However it will not be an offence to be in possession unless you are in a custodial institution. The question of how much you are allowed is still likely to be a raised question. Whilst possession is legal, possession with intent to supply is not. If a police officer feels that the amount you are in possession of may lead to you supplying other people, you may be arrested.
What if I buy NPS for my friends and I?
Even if you give your friends NPS as a gift, you are still supplying and could therefore be prosecuted. It is worth considering that whilst you feel you may never get caught supplying your friends, consider what may happen if they were to have an adverse reaction and end up in hospital or worse! The police would want to know where the substances came from! Consider if it is really worth it.
Are all NPS illegal?
No! There are exemptions to the act and these include, Nicotine, caffeine, Medicinal products (as defined by the Human Medicines Regulations 2012) and drugs already by law elsewhere. Poppers are are also exempt and are not included in the act.
What about Nitrous Oxide (Nos/Noz)?
Nitrous Oxide is a legal substance if bought for its intended use such as to whip cream. If it is bought with the likelihood of being used for its psychoactive properties, it becomes illegal to supply and sell under the act.
Can I buy NPS from a foreign website?
No, it is illegal to import NPS and carries a penalty of up to seven years imprisonment.
For more information on the New Psychoactive Substance Act 2016, click here.