What is the deal with the legal highs ban?

As BBC3's The Last Days of Legal Highs reports on the psychoactive substances industry, here's what you need to know about the changing law...

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The Last Days of Legal Highs is a new BBC3 documentary looking at how a ban on the substances could affect those who take them, and those who sell them. So here’s all you need to know about whether legal highs are actually legal, and what the new law would mean…

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What exactly are legal highs?

“Legal highs are substances that are not yet controlled under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971”, says national drug education service FRANK. “They contain chemical substances which produce similar effects to illegal drugs (like cocaine, cannabis and ecstasy).”

“Legal highs cannot be sold for human consumption so they are often sold as incense, salts or plant food to get round the law.  The packaging may describe a list of ingredients but you cannot be sure that this is what the product  will contain.”

“There is often not enough research about them to know about their potency, adverse effects from human consumption, or when used with other substances or alcohol.

“However, more and more ‘legal highs’ are being researched to see what their dangers are and to see whether they should be made illegal. In fact,  many substances  that have been found in substances sold as ‘legal highs’ have already been made illegal.”

So are legal highs banned?

Not at the moment.

“Legal highs are not yet controlled under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971,” says FRANK, “and there is often not enough research about them to know about their potency, adverse effects from human consumption, or when used with other substances or alcohol.”

But last year 400 local councils called on government to take decisive action and now it’s being discussed.

The ban, called the Psychoactive Substances Act, was supposed to come into force on Wednesday 6th April but the Government is now implementing the ban on May 26th.

It used to be that an individual type of legal high would be banned but the new new bill will apply to “any substance intended for human consumption that is capable of producing a psychoactive effect” which means all legal highs.

Will it be an offence to take legal highs?

It will apply throughout the UK and enable authorities to seize and destroy legal highs, carry out searches, and issue prohibition orders on drug sellers. It will not be an offence to possess the drugs for personal use, but anyone producing, distributing, selling or supplying new psychoactive substances could face up to seven years in prison.

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Read more information about legal highs and other drugs here.