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  1. TheBigBadWolf
    The home secretary’s own expert drug advisers have said her bill introducing a blanket ban on “legal highs” risks “serious unintended consequences” and is unenforceable unless it is completely rewritten. The advisory council on the misuse of drugs (ACMD) has written to Theresa May telling her that her legislation risks handing out seven-year prison sentences to the sellers of benign or even helpful herbal medicines, criminalising otherwise law-abiding young people and making the “directors” of pubs, clubs and even prisons liable for prosecution.

    Prof Les Iversen, the ACMD chair, has told May the council is willing to suggest detailed amendments that would make sure her bill, which is going through the House of Lords, is based on evidence, is enforceable and proportionate, and achieves what it sets out to do while “minimising the potential for unintended consequences”.

    The blanket ban on new psychoactive substances, as they are officially known, is highly unusual in British law, as it brings in a complete ban on all psychoactive substances and then introduces a list of exemptions for those in everyday use, such as alcohol and coffee.

    The ACMD praised the home secretary for taking a “proactive” approach to the problem of legal highs, which are synthetic chemical compounds imitating the effects of traditional illicit drugs such as cannabis and ecstasy, and for not making their personal possession a criminal offence.

    But in a devastating critique of May’s approach, the ACMD went on to detail eight problems with the bill that undermine its aim. These are:

    Widening the scope of the original ban far beyond “novel psychoactive substances” by leaving out the word novel so it covers all psychoactive substances. “It is almost impossible to list all desirable exemptions under the bill. As drafted, the bill may now include substances that are benign or even helpful to people including evidence-based herbal remedies that are not included on the current exemption list,” said the ACMD.
    The “psychoactivity of a substance cannot be unequivocally proven” in court. The ACMD said the only definitive way of determining the psychoactivity of a substance is by human experience and that cannot be legally documented. Its said there are proxy neurochemical tests that could be used but they may not stand up in court.
    The legislation fails to distinguish between potentially harmful and harmless substances, which means suppliers of benign or beneficial substances could face prosecution under the bill.
    Medical and scientific research will be seriously inhibited by its terms because an exemption for clinical trials does not cover laboratory research in academia or industry.
    Otherwise law-abiding young people will be criminalised and face heavy penalties for “social dealing” – clubbing together and buying small quantities online – with a potential discriminatory impact on black and minority ethnic groups.
    While the bill will lead to the closure of many “headshops”, the trade is likely to be displaced to illegal dealing networks and internet sales, with some users switching to more harmful substances.


    The directors of many premises and venues, including pubs, clubs, hostels, residential units, festivals and even prisons could be left liable for prosecution for legal highs used on their premises even though many are undetectable by drug dogs and urine tests.
    The bill will have a substantial impact on the sale of many herbal medicines. Only a very small number of “registered traditional medicines” would be exempt from the bill. The ACMD says the sellers of a large number of currently legal products could face legal sanctions if they fail to register. “Purchasing a benign, possibly evidence-based herbal product from a website outside the UK would appear to attract a seven-year prison tariff.”

    Iversen said the council wanted talks with the home secretary over how to avoid the bill’s serious unintended consequences. It also wants to see a statutory duty for ministers to consult the council written into the bill, as has been the case for the last 40 years under the 1971 Misuse of Drugs Act.

    The Home Office has said it will respond to the drug experts’ concerns before the next stage of the legislation in the Lords on 14 July.

    “The advisory council on the misuse of drugs’ scientific advice is greatly valued by the government,” said a spokeswoman. “The home secretary has received Prof Les Iversen’s letter on the psychoactive substances bill and welcomes the ACMD’s support of a move to reduce and prevent harms and preventable deaths caused by these dangerous drugs to young people, adults, families and societies.

    “We will respond to the letter and recommendations before the bill is next debated in the House of Lords.”



    Alan Travis Sunday 5 July 2015 http://www.theguardian.com
    Photograph: Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP/Getty Images

Comments

  1. TheBigBadWolf
    Prof Iversen better watch what is going out in public - it's not that long since a chair of the ACMD was sacked - his predecessor Prof David Nutt was comparing the danger of bicycling <= horse riding, sorry for my faulty memory(!) and taking MDMA in unfavor to riding - that's much less of a criticism than telling the world Mme Secretary's law is food for the shredder.

    W.
  2. Baba Blacksheep
    Hate to be pedantic but Professor Nutt compared the dangers of ecstasy to be less than that of riding a horse.
    Some of the horses I have ridden are way more dangerous than ecstasy, but I guess he meant statistically.
    I am pleased the ACMD are offering sensible advice on this ridiculous blanket ban on all psychoactive substances, especially if it went through there would be no requirement for the ACMD anymore; superfluous to requirements it would seem.
  3. Joe-(5-HTP)
    Guess the UK govt will have to fire their drug policy advisors again!
  4. babalooj
    Oh my goodness, that is the most horrible thing i've ever heard! How ludicrous to just go ahead and ban all psychoactive substances,
  5. Rewil
    "and then introduces a list of exemptions for those in everyday use, such as alcohol"

    Of course! Because the substance that was linked to 5.9% of all deaths worldwide in 2012 is cool, but those damn kids will never ever get high legally!
  6. TheBigBadWolf
    Lets see what is coming out there.

    I think that these actions of the home secretary need much more publicity, so I'd like to invite as much members as possible to share the Original article on social media - if they don't have a problem openly critisising drug-political nonsense, that is.

    I strongly believe that it is time for the UK drug users (and civil rights supporters as such) to openly do something against such evil lawmaking that is only making the situation worse.
    Ms May seems to think (?) that she and her fellow abolishionists have to produce facts that forever make it impossible for every citizen to get high, except for their shitty alcohol that is proven as the most dangerous substance existing with the bodycount it is taking every year.

    To me that sounds like:
    "If you have the idea to turn on, please could you commit suicide by getting pissed every day?"

    What a disgusting stance over people who think differently... I find no words that would fit to the refusal that is growing inside me.

    W.
  7. Coconut
    As Western governments move more and more towards the authoritarian right (with Greece being a notable exception), we can only expect to see more of this lunacy.

    It would be political suicide to ban alcohol.
  8. TheBigBadWolf
    It is time to show "them" how many we actually are and that we shall not be governed in authoritarian ways. We (Europe) have experienced Authoritarian monarchies, Fascism, PseudoSocialist authoritarian Regimes - the Americans have their predatoric Capitalism with authoritarian Economist sheltering, etc.pp.

    - we all should have had enough of this bullshit that is restricting most every right we are having - rights our forefathers have fought for against 'really' authoritarian methods of the powers that were, (time to stand up like some generations before us did) - and Succeeded in getting our rights that afterwards were restricted again slowly and brought us back to a state of freedom that is far less than what the late sixties movements had achieved.

    Of course this is not so easy.
    Because we are users of substances that shall be banned after the views of 'them' we are always suspectible to be law-breakers. This is a big big problem that can only be relativised with absolute law abiding and peacefulness during potential protesting actions. And keeping the feet still, iykwim.

    W.
  9. Amazing Jeans
    Most youngsters in England are more concerned about how their hair style looks and their skin tight jeans. :)
  10. TheBigBadWolf
    That can be changed. I guess you can remember the peace anti/nukes movement in the eighties?
    If people are concerned enough they have no more problems standing face to face to a row of grim looking policemen/women.
    Its only a case of making people concerned. first step is information. that's what we are doing here.

    The rest is a thing of confident multiplicators who spread the (bad) news and agitate others to become multiplicators too.

    These things work, when people don't resign before they even begin by finding pretexts like . "they anyway won't listen".

    Things like hairstyles become very small and uninteresting when people understand the gravity of the situation, under normal circumstances civil rights are something abstract, but when people are told what exactly is going on then a very good chance is given they become activists.

    Some will even find a new sense of life working for a noble cause.
    Beenthere, done that.

    what do you think how Drugs-Forum is working? ;)

    W.
  11. cra$h
    I really can't see how this would pass. The list would go on and on for approved drugs, and where would you draw the line? Hot peppers release small amounts of dopamine when you eat them, are they psychoactive? And it would take months or even years longer to get a new drug out on the market just to determine whether it's psychoactive or not based on the government's view.
  12. organic_chemist
    As a chemist I have to say I am completely horrified by this truly awful piece of legislation (I'm not the only one, there is serious concern amongst chemists - see Chemistry World). This is the sort of ill-thought out Frankenstein legislation that comes from knee jerk right wing media pressure.

    Firstly - the deaths; figures vary but at least 60 people have apparently died from 'legal highs'. Ok please tell us what they took and more importantly what they mixed it with (usually the case). I feel for those who have lost loved ones, but to use their deaths as meaningless statistics is quite sickening.

    Then we come on to the substances themselves, all fine and dandy you might think until you see the definition of a psychoactive substance as something 'which is capable of stimulating or supressing the central nervous system'. Excellent, so what about those drugs which we simply are not sure do either of these things (i.e. we don't know for sure how they work)? Do you incarcerate somebody for selling, importing, or manufacturing something that falls into a really grey area as far as neurochemistry is concerned?

    Moving on, how do you classify that something is a NPS? Ok alcohol, tobacco caffeine and medicines are exempt, but what about all those borderline substances, ginseng, 5HTP (I could go on.....). Are we going to see health food stores clearing out borderline substances?

    ...and what about us chemists who work from home and occasionally need to order stuff to complete work for clients? Are we to be exempt or raided by the Police, who in my opinion don't need this shitty legislation as they have enough to do with limited funds as it is......guess that's my diethyl ether going down the drain.....

    Then there is the potential of some NPS for medical use, which will now probably never be studied as such because of the paperwork and hassle involved.


    What the hell was wrong with the old system where drugs were looked at by the ACMD (before it got filled up with yes-men), on a case by case or class of compound and then added to the MDA. It is total bollocks to say that 'we can't keep up with the number of substances coming out'. Well they managed it in the seventies, for example a whole host of phenethylamines were added to the MDA before they ever appeared on the streets (there are many other examples too).


    Well that's my rant finished, other than to say this is fag packet politics (yes they do monitor these forums), and you people who put it together have formulated a total crock.
  13. TheBigBadWolf

    Theresa May wants to ban pleasure


    I had rather naively thought that a central part of Conservative philosophy was that, unless there is strong evidence of harm that can be prevented or alleviated by Government action, it’s usually best to let people live their lives without interference from the state. Theresa May’s Home Office thinks rather differently. It proudly announced last month that since 2010 it has banned more than 500 new drugs, as though this were an end and a self-evident good in itself.

    Well, we now know it was not an end, it was a beginning, and 500 banned substances were just a taster. In its Psychoactive Substances Bill the second reading of which is to take place in the House of Lords next week, it has made proposals to ban all “psychoactive substances” apart from a few defined exceptions.

    Did you know that tea was a “psychoactive substance”? Well under this new law it will be, and you will be allowed to drink it only as a special exemption from the normal rule.

    The supposed mischief at which the law is aimed is the trade in “legal highs”: synthetic chemicals, usually manufactured in Asia, which create psychotropic effects similar to those of controlled drugs such as opiates, ecstasy and so on.

    What is the extent of the problem?

    Figures are exceedingly hard to come by, and not very reliable when you find them. Furthermore it can be hard to disentangle the effect of any particular drug from the effects of other drugs or alcohol The most widely quoted figures are those of the St George’s International Centre for Drugs Policy’s National Programme for Substance Abuse Deaths which found that “Novel Psychoactive Substances” were responsible for 68 deaths in 2012.

    However, this does not mean that “legal highs” were responsible for all these deaths, or even most of them. A Novel Psychoactive Substance (“NPS”) is not the same as a “legal high.” It simply refers to a drug which is not listed in the United Nations Convention on Narcotic Drugs, probably because it was not considered important at the time the Convention was drafted.

    The NPSs most implicated in deaths in 2012 (with 24), for example, are the Methcathinones (the best known of which is Mephedrone), which have been Class B controlled drugs since 2010. Just behind these, said to be responsible for 23 deaths, were “amphetamine type substances,” most, if not all, of which have been illegal for well over 30 years.

    To confuse matters further, some of the other deaths attributed to NPSs, were caused by dietary supplements or anabolic steroids which are not, at least under any sensible definition, psychoactive in effect anyway.

    In short, most of the harm attributed to legal highs was in fact caused by drugs which were either not legal, or not high-inducing. In fact only 11, or less than 1%, of the total of 1,613 drug-related deaths in 2012 were even arguably attributable to anything that could sensibly be called a “legal high”.

    In the face of this dearth of evidence, it was little wonder that the Government’s own panel of experts concluded in 2014:

    “We have a very incomplete understanding of acute and longer term health harms and we know very little about any associated social harm. There is little evidence of NPS use driving crime and disorder, though organised crime groups are likely to become involved in supply if deemed profitable, as was seen in the case of mephedrone post-control.”

    So the Government’s strategy is an odd one: after over forty years of a war on traditional controlled drugs, which seems to have benefited mainly an unsavoury criminal underworld, it has decided to open a second front against drugs, and as we shall see lots of other things, which may, in fact, not be harmful at all. It is especially odd to do so when one of the very few confident predictions from the Government’s own expert panel was that the criminalisation of “legal highs” will draw “organised crime” into their supply.

    But whatever the wisdom of the approach, the Government seems to have decided that banning 500 substances is not enough. It must ban almost everything that gives pleasure.

    And what a ban. Of all the many idiotic, ill thought out and pointless laws ever passed, this would be the one of the silliest. And its draftsmanship would make the asinine Dangerous Dogs Act look like the magisterial 1925 Law of Property Act.

    The production, supply, offer to supply, import and export of any “psychoactive substances” will carry potential 7 year gaol sentences. Oddly enough, in the current draft, simple possession without any intent to supply will remain legal, although it may be that this rare flash of apparent common sense, like large swathes of the rest of the Bill, merely reflects the draftsman’s incompetence.

    The heart of the Bill is S.3 which defines a “psychoactive substance” as a substance which:

    (a) is capable of producing a psychoactive effect in a person who consumes it, and

    (b) is not an exempted substance.

    It is the definition of “psychoactive” which, rightly, has attracted the most comment.

    “… a substance produces a psychoactive effect in a person if, by stimulating or depressing the person’s central nervous system, it affects the person’s mental functioning or emotional state. …”

    Any substance which gives pleasure, of course, “affects a person’s emotional state.” The starting point of the Bill is that giving pleasure is sufficient justification for prohibition.

    “Consuming” is defined as causing or allowing a substance, or “fumes given off by the substance,” to enter the body in any way.

    It is true that alcohol (as long as it contains no other psychoactive substances), nicotine, tobacco and caffeine are “exempt substances” (“Thank you, thank you Mrs May”), as are medicinal products.

    The position is less clear for pharmaceutical companies trying to develop new drugs. Whilst “investigational medicinal products” to be used in clinical trials are exempt, the bill appears to render the production of any new psychoactive drug for research purposes unlawful. The rationale for criminalising research into much needed new psychiatric drugs is obscure.

    As if to highlight the Bill’s absurdity, whilst bona fide drugs researchers are turned into criminals, homoeopaths are left unaffected. A pointless exemption has been given to homoeopathic preparations, even though there is no chance whatever that the silly little pills of nothingness and quackery would have any effect on your brain anyway, except as a placebo.

    Butane gas, glue, petrol and some cleaning fluids have all been used for their psychoactive properties. As a result, the law as currently drafted will render their sale illegal. Indeed the Bill’s artificial definition of the word “consumption” to include inhaling “fumes” could have been designed to criminalise petrol station operators and hardware stores. Nobody seems to have considered the point.

    Beyond this, the Bill’s effects are astonishingly far reaching, banning things irrespective of any evidence or reason, simply because they “affect a person’s emotional state,” or – in ordinary language – because they give pleasure or make your life a little happier.

    Amyl nitrite and its chemical relatives, for example. In the form of “poppers” they are widely used, especially by gay men, to enhance sexual pleasure. They are not controlled drugs at present, largely because nobody has ever made a convincing case that they are particularly dangerous. Now they are to be banned not because of the harm they do, but because one of their pleasant effects is to produce euphoria and disinhibition – they “affect your emotional state” – so they are caught by S.3.

    Betel and areca nuts, popular amongst some South Asians, have a mildly stimulative effect, comparable perhaps to drinking coffee. They are not particularly good for you, and they turn your teeth an unattractive browny-red colour. But they are not being banned because they turn your teeth brown or because of any harm they do, but because of the pleasure they produce. No matter how mild, any stimulative effect is enough to criminalise their possession and supply under the proposed law.

    Vapers may think that they are in the clear because the fumes they inhale contain nicotine, which – poisonous and dangerous though it may be – is exempted. However, many vapers add other substances for their soothing or stimulative effects. If anyone offers to supply a vaper with such substances, under this new law they could find themselves gaoled for seven years.

    What about that nice soothing hop pillow that you use to help you sleep? If you let it go to the other side of the matrimonial bed, or worse still lend it to your child you’ll face a possible seven years imprisonment for supplying a psychoactive drug. You could argue that it was a “herbal medicinal product” but it probably isn’t, or you could argue that hops are a “food,” although they clearly aren’t (despite the Bill’s clumsy assertion that “food includes drink.”).

    Pet owners might find themselves in trouble: some toads and salamanders secrete psychoactive substances on their skin. If you offer to sell them or even give them away you would be committing an offence.

    It has even been suggested by the one of the country’s best known legal bloggers, David Allen Green, that the delight produced by the scent of flowers could be enough to engage the provisions of the Bill, and what’s more he is right. What stronger emotional response is there than that produced by the beautiful scent of roses delivered to the woman you love? Sorry, that very emotional response is enough to engage Section 3, and if you happen to hand them to her outside a school, or worse still arrange for someone under the age of 18 to deliver them, the Court is obliged by Section 6 to treat those facts as “aggravating features” for the purpose of sentencing. And don’t think you could avoid the law by giving her perfume instead of flowers: the esters and oils in perfume are designed to seduce, which is of course an emotional response.

    Did I mention the vast array of new powers that the Bill gives to the police? Stop and search, powers to search buildings, prohibition notices and restrictions on your liberty that can be proved merely on the balance of probability? The Bill is absolutely overflowing with them.

    Some of this, like the ban on toads, might seem trivial unless you’re a toad fancier. Others, such as the ban on scented flowers, so obviously absurd that of course no-one is likely to be prosecuted. Perhaps they are the sort of thing that can easily be sorted out by changes to the Bill’s lamentable wording as it wends its way through Parliament. But the Home Office thinking is revealing. Instead of banning things because there is evidence that they will do harm Theresa May now wants to ban things because they cause pleasure.

    The Bill is a text-book example of bad legislation, It is unnecessary, incomprehensible, largely unenforceable, and, by encouraging professional criminals into a new area of business it is likely to prove entirely counter-productive.

    Posted on 06/06/2015 on http://barristerblogger.com by Matthew Scott

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