The Conservatives might have gone in softer than Russell Brand and the gang predicted, with very little change announced in the Queen’s Speech last week, but they didn’t fail to cause a stir. The proposed ‘Psychoactive Substances Bill’ is designed to provide a blanket ban on all substances which produce a mind-altering effect, with several allowances made for booze, fags and chocolate. The idea is to protect the public from any psychoactive substance that ‘affects the person’s mental functioning or emotional state’. Rather than replying to a public demand for such drastic measures, the Home Office stated the purpose of the bill was simply to ‘protect hard-working citizens’.
Admittedly, most of my knowledge of drugs comes from ‘The Wire’ or Talk to Frank adverts we were shown at school, but the proposed restrictions in the bill do seem a little extreme. Perhaps it is the broad scope of the proposed bill that makes it so hard to take it seriously; any substance which essentially alters your mood could potentially be illegal. This theoretically rules out cinnamon snorting (for any ‘Orange Is The New Black’ fans), and sniffing exotic plants (for any Chelsea Flower Show fans).
All new laws should be treated sceptically, especially ones that propose interference in people’s private lives. The anti-drugs bill seeks to cover areas the law does not currently reach, especially when it comes to so-called ‘legal highs’, which have proved fatal in a number of cases.
This doesn’t mean that I’m behind the pro-drugs argument. Legalising drugs in order to make them safer ignores the problem here: people take substances to escape reality. Besides, unlike the US, drugs aren’t a headline-grabbing problem in the UK.