The UK government will review the laws surrounding poppers this summer – after voting to ban their use.
Parliament voted last week to approve a blanket ‘legal highs’ ban that will prohibit the sale of drugs including alkyl nitrites, commonly used by gay men to help relax the anal sphincter muscles for anal sex.
Home Secretary Theresa May pushed through the legislation to make poppers illegal alongside substances such as nitrous oxide (laughing gas).
But this week the government set out plans to review the poppers decision – after pressure from the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD), the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee, and backbench Tory MPs. Experts had called for a legal exemption for poppers, over fears a ban could do more harm than good in the gay community.
The government has appointed Home Office Minister Karen Bradley MP to oversee the independent review into the medical evidence relating to the use of poppers.
As things stand, the blanket ban on poppers is set to come into force this April – but pending the review into medical evidence, is likely to be reversed as early as July 2016.
Out Tory MP Mike Freer, one of the leading backbench voices to speak out against the ban, is set to meet with the Minister ahead of the review.
He told PinkNews that although he was disappointed it was “not possible” to block the ban in Parliament, he was pleased that a review will be conducted.
He said: “Securing an evidenced based review, which includes the relationship benefits, is an important concession.”
The MP hopes to have poppers exempted “by the end of July.”
Crispin Blunt, the Conservative MP for Reigate, made headlines last week when he told Parliament about his own use of poppers.
He said: “There are some times when something is proposed that becomes personal to you, and you realise the government is about to do something fantastically stupid. I think in those circumstances one has a duty to speak up.
“I use poppers – I out myself as a poppers user, and would be directly affected by this legislation.
“I’m astonished to find it’s proposing to be banned, and frankly so I think would many other gay men.”
He added: “If I follow my own reaction to this, it simply serves to bring the whole law into disrepute.”
Another Tory MP, Michael Fabricant, added that he had “tried” poppers – but not for anal sex.
Home Office minister Mike Penning conceded previously: “The Government recognises that representations have been made to the effect that ‘poppers’ have a beneficial health and relationship effect in enabling anal sex for some men who have sex with men, amid concern about the impact of the ban on these men.
“In consultation with the Department of Health and the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), the Home Office will now consider whether there is evidence to support these claims and, if so, whether it is sufficient to justify exempting the alkyl nitrites group.”
“The Bill enables the Home Secretary (after statutory consultation with the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs)… to add to the list of exempted substances to the Bill.
“The Government intends to complete such consideration in time to enable any such draft regulations to be laid before both Houses and approved before the summer recess should the Government conclude that a case had been made to include alkyl nitrites in the list of exempted substances.”