Responding to last week’s letter by the ACMD, the Home Office have today issued an acceptance statement that the Psychoactive Substances Act will not ban poppers.

When the final vote on the Psychoactive Substances Act took place in January, and despite advice to the contrary from the ACMD, the Government voted not to provide an exemption for poppers, as there is with alcohol and tobacco. Instead, the Government elected to review the position of poppers after the Act comes into effect, a move that could have serious consequences for both people who use poppers and for manufacturers of poppers themselves.

The first stage of the review on poppers was to consult the ACMD, and last week’s letter states their position on unequivocally: under the definition of psychoactivity detailed in the Act, poppers do not in their expert scientific opinion fall under the ban, and neither are they a sufficient risk to social harm for them to be included in the Misuse of Drugs Act, in case that was in any doubt.

In what might be considered a rare case of the Home Office asking the ACMD for their advice and then actually accepting it, they have today confirmed that poppers will not be covered by the ban, and will continue to be legal to sell once the Act comes into effect, marking a u-turn in their position. Responding to the ACMD, Karen Bradley MP, Minister for Preventing Abuse, Exploitation and Crime, stated:

“Having given due consideration, the government agrees with your advice and interpretation of the definition. We do so in the understanding that ‘poppers’ have these unique indirect effects.

“Our understanding is that this approach does not have any further implications for the operation of the Act and that other substances that the Act intends to cover are not affected,”

Bradley then went on to confirm that police would be advised not to take action against those involved in the trade of poppers.

The attempt to include of poppers in the Act, despite their relative safety, and with their use associated in particular with the gay male community, had even led some to suggest the real incentive behind their ban was based on an underlying moral judgement of poppers users.

Calling out the inclusion of poppers within the Psychoactive Substances Act and the wider problems with UK drug laws, Liberal Democrat Health Spokesperson Norman Lamb, who has recently been championing drug policy reform within his own party, said:

“The plans to ban poppers were cynical and ideological from the start, based on prejudice rather than actual evidence. Ministers knew this – and after months of ignoring the advice of the UK’s expert drug advisors, it’s laughable that they have now suddenly conceded that poppers aren’t actually a psychoactive drug.

“The Liberal Democrats have consistently argued for drugs policy which is progressive, liberal, and evidence-based. We know that blanket bans don’t actually work, and the Government urgently needs to step back and take a fresh look at our drug laws in the UK.”

The Act is currently set to come into force on April 6th, although it is currently rumoured that could be delayed by up to a month or even longer, as police and other agencies establish how enact the new law.

Words by Henry Fisher

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