Possession of laughing gas to be criminal offence


Several drugs charities have criticised the announcement, claiming criminalising possession could lead to the drug becoming more dangerous…reports Asian Lite News

Possessing laughing gas is to be made a criminal offence for the first time, the government has announced.

There will also be tighter controls on retailers to prevent the supply of nitrous oxide for misuse.

It goes against recommendations from the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) which recently advised against new laws to ban nitrous oxide.

Nitrous oxide, sold in metal canisters, is known as NOS and is one of the most-used drugs by UK 16 to 24-year-olds.

The details are expected to be released on Monday. The BBC understands the ban would be issued under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, which regulates drugs based on their perceived harm and potential for misuse.

It is already illegal to produce or supply the gas for its psychoactive effects under the Psychoactive Substances Act 2016. The law makes production, supply and importation of nitrous oxide for human consumption illegal, but not possession.

The change is part of a crackdown on anti-social behaviour, which Prime Minister Rishi Sunak will announce on Monday.

The plans will also give police and councils additional powers to deal with people who are “causing nuisance” by blocking shop doorways, asking for money at cash machines or leaving their belongings on pavements.

These people will then be “directed towards the support they need”, such as accommodation, mental health or substance misuse services.

“The debris and paraphernalia which causes blight will then be cleared,” the government added.

Outlining the reasons behind the nitrous oxide ban, the government said it was “concerned about the rise in health and social harms” of laughing gas, “particularly to young people”.

“We are for the first time making possession of nitrous oxide an offence; preventing supply for misuse by putting tighter controls on retailers; and giving greater powers to law enforcement to take action against those who are in breach,” it added.

Speaking on the BBC’s Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg programme, Michael Gove said: “We are doing this because if you walk through any urban park you will see these little silver cannister which are the evidence of people regarding public spaces as arenas for drug taking.

“It is unacceptable. People should feel those spaces are being looked after in a way which means they are safe for children.”

The levelling up secretary said the drug has an “intoxicating and potentially damaging effect on young brains and young nervous systems”.

Heavy use can lead to a vitamin deficiency that damages nerves in the spinal column.

Several drugs charities have criticised the announcement, claiming criminalising possession could lead to the drug becoming more dangerous.

Steve Rolles, senior policy analyst at the Transform Drug Policy Foundation, said: “The idea that this is a deterrent effect is ridiculous it just criminalises users and will hand control of the product to criminal gangs.

“This is just political theatre – if you need any proof you just need to see that they have ignored their own advisers. This is a particularly ugly example of performative politics.”

Transform Drug Policy Foundation is a charity which campaigns for drugs to be legalised and regulated.

Reducing the risks of nitrous oxide is “better achieved with smart education, not blunt regulation that may compound existing harms and create new ones”, he added.

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