Possession of laughing gas to be made illegal in the UK

Possessing laughing gas will be made illegal in the UK in three weeks, with those who repeatedly misuse the drug facing up to two years in prison.

This comes after MPs voted overwhelmingly to have it categorised as a class C drug, by 404 votes to 36, last month.

The ban will come into force on November 8, and will make nitrous oxide a controlled Class C drug under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971.

A report by the Home Office said dealers of nitrous oxide will face up to 14 years behind bars.

Critics have previously warned against a ban, saying it could stop users seeking medical help, but the government says it is clamping down on antisocial behaviour and drug taking in public.

The drug, which comes in small metal canisters, is a colourless gas commonly used as a painkiller in medicine and dentistry, and for producing whipped cream in cooking.

It is one of the most commonly used recreational drugs among young people.

When used as a recreational drug it is inhaled, and can make people feel relaxed, giggly, light-headed or dizzy.

The substance can also cause headaches and make some users anxious or paranoid, while over-use can cause fainting or make people lose consciousness.

Penalties for possessing the substance could include an unlimited fine, community service, or a caution, and for “repeat serious offenders”, a prison sentence of up to two years, while the maximum sentence for the production or supply of the drug for unlawful purposes will be 14 years.

There will be exemptions for using nitrous oxide for legitimate reasons, such as in maternity wards for pain relief during labour or in catering.

People will not be required to carry licences but will need to demonstrate they are lawfully in position of the substance and not intending to use it for psychoactive effects.

And the government says legitimate suppliers of nitrous oxide must not be “reckless” as to whether someone is purchasing the substance to misuse it, adding that “Turning a blind eye will be committing an offence.”

Minister Chris Philp said: “We are delivering on the promise we made to take a zero-tolerance approach towards antisocial behaviour and flagrant drug taking in our public spaces.

“Abuse of nitrous oxide is also dangerous to people’s health and today we are sending a clear signal to young people that there are consequences for misusing drugs. Both users and dealers will face the full force of the law for their actions.”

The chief executive of the Night-time Industries Association, Michael Kill, welcomed the ban but said it must come with a broader education and harm reduction strategy on drugs.

“The burden on businesses has been substantial, as they’ve contended with mounting pressure from authorities and residents due to the proliferation of discarded silver canisters on the streets.

“This predicament has not only posed risks to the well-being of both staff and patrons but has also fostered an environment conducive to petty crime, anti-social behaviour, and the activities of organised crime syndicates.”

Source: BBC

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