The Psychoactive Substances act will come into effect on the 26 May 2016.

The psychoactive substances act 2016 regulates the supply, production and importation of chemicals which are capable of producing a psychoactive effect upon anyone who consumes them.

The legislation has been put in place because the government are becoming increasingly concerned by the widespread use of so called legal highs. It is certainly the author of this blogs experience (based purely on anecdotal evidence) that the widespread use of legal highs such as “spice” or “black mamba” are on the increase. The effects appear to be vast and wide ranging but the use of legal highs can and have resulted in death.

The significance of the change in the law is that in the past those that produced legal highs were always one step ahead of the authorities. For example MCAT or Mephedrone started as a legal high before it was criminalised following a number of fatalities. The difficulties that the authorities faced in prosecuting offences that related to Mephedrone was that as soon as it was criminalised, chemists were able to amend the chemical constituents that made up the drug, thereby making it a lawful producet i.e. a new “legal high” with similar if not the same effects.

The new act is a catch all to cover any psychoactive substance that is to be ingested for the purposes of getting high.


Psychoactive substances can include everyday household items such as marker pens, aerosol or antifreeze. It is clearly not a crime to possess these items but if you possessed them with the intention to ingest them, i.e. drink antifreeze or sniff aerosol, then you would be guilty under the new act.

The more likely scenario in which we are likely to see convictions are people smoking or in possession of a psychoactive substance such as spice as more often than not the possession would be relatively easy to prove.

Up to two years imprisonment can be imposed for possession of a psychoactive substance.


Retailers will now face prosecution if they sell any of the prohibited psychoactive substances if it appears that they will be taken as a drug. It is at the discretion of retailers to ensure that they take appropriate steps to satisfy themselves that the products they are selling are not to be taken like a drug.

For the supply of psychoactive substances for human consumption sanctions under the act can result in up to 7-years imprisonment,

Below is a link to the government guidance for anyone interested in knowing the relevant criteria.  

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