07:27 GMT27 May 2020
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    The UK's Psychoactive Substances Act, a comprehensive ban on any substance thought to affect one's mental state, will not enter into force on April 6, as previously decided.

    A letter on the Alternative Trade Association (ATA) website revealed that Hampshire police got in touch with people selling products affected by the ban to announce the ban's as-yet indefinite postponement.

    The Home Office-sponsored bill, which was passed into law last January and received the Royal Assent, had drawn extensive criticism for its blanket prohibitionist approach.

    It was intended to tackle the use of so-called "legal highs" — chemicals whose effects are similar to those of illicit drugs, but which can nonetheless, be sold as they are not explicitly prohibited. Several attempts to target the market by banning these new substances were regularly foiled by tweaks to the chemical composition of legal-highs, which made them legal again until a new ban was imposed.

    To end this ongoing game of cat and mouse, the government just decided to outlaw every substance that "by stimulating or depressing the person's central nervous system, [affects] the person's mental functioning or emotional state."

    This however, resulted in certain harmless substances, such as sport supplements, smart drugs and poppers also being outlawed. Doubts have also been raised regarding how realistic it would be to enforce such a ban as there is no way to establish whether a certain substance is psychoactive, short of engaging in long and expensive tests every time a new substance is found. 

    Ireland passed a similar bill in 2010, only to find it was practically unenforceable.

    While legal high and supplement users are exulting over ATA's letter, the government had in fact announced the pushback days ago, when it said the regulation would "commence […] in its entirety in the spring." That means that, while failing to hit the April 6 deadline, the bill has not been shelved and would probably be fully implemented at some point before the end of June.

    No clear reasons have been given for the delay. Some have speculated that it could be linked to the fact that police forensic labs are not currently up to the task of analyzing tons of new substances for illicit properties.

    Another possibility is that the government is assessing the several requests for exemption that it has been presented with. Poppers, for instance, would have originally been outlawed under the new law, but they have recently been declared exempt after a study found they could not be defined as being "psychoactive."

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    society, government, law, ban, drugs, Great Britain, United Kingdom
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