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The Psychoactive Substances Bill 2015, was announced in the Queen’s Speech on 27 May 2015. This has now passed its House of Lords stages and will have its Second Reading in the House of Commons on 19 October 2015.

This briefing paper will provide some background to new psychoactive substances, their use, and the current legislative framework. It will provide an overview of the Bill and its consideration in the Lords. Some response to the Bill from interest groups will also be discussed.

New psychoactive substances have been a challenge for existing drugs legislation in the UK; they are developed at such a speed that by the time one substances is controlled, another one with a slight change in chemical structure can take its place in the market. There have been some developments to attempt to improve control of these substances, such as temporary class drug orders which allow the 12 month temporary control of a substance.

In 2014, the Home Office appointed an expert panel to look at legislative options to better tackle new psychoactive substances. The expert panel looked at international examples on this and recommended that a blanket ban approach, similar to that in place in the Republic of Ireland, would be the best framework. The Government response to the review said that they would take the recommendations forward. The Conservative manifesto prior to the 2015 election included a commitment to bring forward a blanket ban on new psychoactive substances.

Summary of the Bill

Clause 1 provides an overview of the content of the Bill

Clause 2 defines the meaning of psychoactive substance under the Bill

Clause 3 provides regulation making powers for the Secretary of state to add substances to a list of exempted substances under the Bill in Schedule 1

Clauses 4-10 provide for four offences under the Bill: producing; supplying or offering to supply; possession with an intent to supply; and importing/exporting a psychoactive substance. This section also outlines the penalties for these offences and provides three aggravating factors for the offence. These are: that the offence took place in the vicinity of a school; a person under the age of 18 was used to deliver the substances; or the offence took place in a prison. There is also a regulation making power under Clause 10 for the Secretary of State to add activities that would normally be caught by the Bill to an exempted list.

Clauses 11-34 provide powers for dealing with prohibited activities under the Bill. There are four civil sanctions, prohibition notices, premises notices, prohibition orders, and premises orders. The breach of an order will be a criminal offence.

Clauses 35-47 outline the powers to stop and search, and of entry and seizure.

Clauses 48-53 provide details on the rentention and disposal of seized goods under the Bill.

Clauses 54-62 contain final and consequential provisions. The Bill extends to England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Detailed explanatory notes to the Bill have been published, and links to the debate on the Lords stages of the Bill can be accessed via the Parliament Psychoactive Substances Bill 2015 Bill page.  

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