In Defence of Liberty

Driven by data; ridden with liberty.

On the Psychoactive Substances Bill

What does this Bill actually contain? (Edited: Goodnight London)

What does this Bill actually contain? (Edited: Goodnight London)

On the official opening of Parliament, the Queen’s speech outlined the legislative agenda for the next year.

Whilst the Queen saying the phrase ‘psychoactive drugs’ may yet be sampled for a trance track, the proposed Psychoactive Substances Bill itself is disturbing.

Aside from the strange distinction that this Bill will “protect hard-working citizens” from new psychoactive substances (NPS), the Bill seeks to do the following:

The Bill would make it an offence to produce, supply, offer to supply, posses with intent to supply, import or export psychoactive substances; that is, any substance intended for human consumption that is capable of producing a psychoactive effect. The maximum sentence would be seven years’ imprisonment.

Substances, such as alcohol, tobacco, caffeine, food and medical products, would be excluded from the scope of the offence, as would controlled drugs, which would continue to be regulated by the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971.

The proposal does not seek an offence of personal possession.

An Analogue

Whilst author Christopher Snowdon highlighted the similarity with the US Federal Analogue Act, the cited NPS Expert Panel report used the Irish Criminal Justice (Psychoactive Substances) Act 2010 as its model.

The approach is labelled as the ‘general prohibition of the distribution’ of these psychoactive substances. The NPS Expert Panel’s report noted:

No formal evaluation of the impact of the legislation has been undertaken but there is ongoing research in this area with concerns expressed by drugs workers about displacement to heroin and prescription drugs, as well as the development of an illegal street market in NPS. However, the numbers of clients attending drug treatment services in respect of prolematic NPS use has declined since the introduction of the 2010 Act.

Furthermore, “Ireland’s Misuse of Drugs Act 1977 and 1984 remain the primary substance control legislative mechanism in Ireland”.

The Irish Act appears to have unexplored benefits and costs, as well as unintended consequences and results.

The Irish Act demands the psychoactive substances have “substantial” effects, but the proposed British Bill does not.

The proposed British Bill does not currently exhibit an exemption for drinks, meaning that hot chocolate — as chocolate contains psychoactive substances — would be unlawful.

Expressly Permitted

Even if you advocate for strengthened anti-drug laws, this proposal is a sprawling state expansion, where anything psychoactive is deemed illegal until written otherwise.

The liberty to undertake activities in Britain has been the prerogative of the individual.

Freedoms were removed by laws, not given by laws.

This law would invert this legal standard: a psychoactive substance would be prohibited unless explicitly permitted.

safer but new alternative to an existing drug, like alcohol, would be rendered automatically illegal.

We don’t know what the government is intending on banning, but the government doesn’t know either.

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This entry was posted on May 29, 2015 by in National Politics and tagged , .
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