Government ministers in the UK have been advised that a ban on legal highs does not include poppers.
Leading drug advisors have said that the Psychoactive Substances Act does not actually include alkyl nitrites, commonly used by gay men.
Home Secretary Theresa May pushed through the legislation to make poppers illegal alongside substances such as nitrous oxide (laughing gas) – but conceded a review of the issue after expert recommendations and unrest among Tory MPs.
Conservative backbencher Crispin Blunt had outed himself as a user of poppers in a Parliamentary debate, while another, Michael Fabricant, also admitted to “trying” the drugs – though not for gay sex. Former Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg last week warned the Government to rethink the ban.
But now the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) has said that despite the belief by ministers that poppers were included in the ban, its definition of
“The ACMD’s consensus view is that a psychoactive substance has a direct action on the brain and that substances having peripheral effects, such as those caused by alkyl nitrites, do not directly stimulate or depress the central nervous system,” said the council in a report.
“In the ACMD’s view, alkyl nitrites [poppers] do not fall within the scope of the current definition of a ‘psychoactive substance’ in the Psychoactive Substances Act 2016.
“Consequently, the ACMD does not see a need for an exemption under the Psychoactive Substances Act 2016.”
Going on, the ACMD also reiterated what it said in 2011, that Poppers “misuse, within the terms of section 1 of the Act, is not seen to be capable of having ‘harmful effects sufficient to constitute a social problem’”.
Home Secretary Theresa May pushed through the legislation to make poppers illegal alongside substances such as nitrous oxide (laughing gas).
However, the government in January 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.
Tory MP for Finchley and Golders Green, Mike Freer told PinkNews: “Ministers will now review the report from the ACMD, before deciding how to act. I am confident that it will be accepted, meaning poppers will fall outside the Psychoactive Substances Act, and will not be banned. Hopefully this is a result for those who have campaigned on this issue.”
Experts had called for a legal exemption for poppers, over fears a ban could do more harm than good in the gay community.
Crispin Blunt, the Conservative MP for Reigate, made headlines earlier this year when he told Parliament about his own use of poppers.
“I use poppers – I out myself as a poppers user, and would be directly affected by this legislation,” he said.
“I’m astonished to find it’s proposing to be banned, and frankly so I think would many other gay men.”