After a couple of false starts, the Home Office has announced that the Psychoactive Substances Act will come into force on the 26th of May. The blanket ban on all legal highs was supposed to have started on the 6th of April, but after various experts pointed out that the original legislation was just completely unenforceable, it was postponed while lawmakers figured out how to actually make it work.
Their solution: trade of these substances is going to be outlawed, but possession outside of a prison won't be a criminal offence.
The prison thing is most likely because synthetic cannabis has caused an unprecedented spike in violent incidents in British prisons – and because, you know, you probably shouldn't be allowed to take drugs in jail?
The decision to not criminalise users is an interesting one. It makes perfect sense, of course, but it's pretty novel for the British government, which historically has always taken an antiquated approach to drug policy, slapping users with prison sentences for possession charges.
Confirming the introduction of the ban, Home Office minister Karen Bradley said: "Psychoactive substances shatter lives, and we owe it to all those who have lost loved ones to do everything we can to eradicate this abhorrent trade. This Act will bring to an end to the open sale on our high streets of these potentially harmful drugs and deliver new powers for law enforcement to tackle this issue at every level in communities, at our borders, on UK websites and in our prisons."
The intentions are right – many of these substances are very nasty – but whether or not the government's strategy will work in terms of reducing harm is something only time will tell. Banning drugs has never stopped anyone from using them (in some cases, in fact, use went up), and as a VICE investigation found, street dealers have already taken control of the legal high market as a direct result of the bill, which isn't good news for anybody.
More on VICE: