Psychoactive Substances Act 2016


Intended to come into force on 6 April 2016 the Government has now postponed legislation for at least a month due to claims that its current definition of a psychoactive substance is not enforceable by the police.

The main intention of the Act is to shut down shops and websites that currently trade in “legal highs”. The Act does not include possession as an offence; the Government did not want it to lead to the mass criminalisation of young people. However the Act does include possession in a custodial institution as an offence.

Summary of the Act as it currently stands:

  • The act makes it an offence to produce or supply any substance intended for human consumption that is capable of producing a psychoactive effect.
  • Possession of a psychoactive substance will not be an offence, except in a custodial institution.
  • Maximum sentence will be 7 years imprisonment.
  • Excludes food, alcohol, tobacco, nicotine, caffeine.
  • Excludes poppers (alkyl nitrites)
    • The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) told the Home Office that, in its view, poppers do not fall within the scope of the current definition of a ‘psychoactive’ substance in the legislation.
  • Exempts healthcare activities and approved scientific research.

The Psychoactive Substances Act does not replace the Misuse of Drugs Act (1971) which remains in place for drugs that are under Government control. However it has been amended to enable the Home Secretary to place a new psychoactive substance causing sufficient concern about its potential harms under temporary control by invoking a temporary class drug order.

The introduction of this legislation should have no impact on a customer’s requirements for NPS testing as the intention of the Act is to close down establishments and websites who supply the drugs.



Home office factsheet about Temporary Class Drug Orders (TCDO)

Guide to the Psychoactive Substances Act
Psychoactive Substances Act 2016

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