You're listening to a podcast from the today programme on B.B.C. radio four drugs like cannabis cocaine heroin are illegal and have been for many years.
Not so drugs like nitrous oxide, even though they, too, can cause real harm, which is why the government brought in a new law.
Last year, banning what were called legal highs.
The psychoactive substances act now that act has been called into question because two trials, and all the men accused of supplying or planning to supply, nitrous oxide, have collapsed.
The Crown prosecution service had refused to offer any evidence as to be a full review of the act.
I'm joined by grossly douses head of legal services for release.
That's an organisation that campaigns on drugs and drug floor and might trace, former Deputy drugs Tsar my Tracey, this is an important and slightly worrying development, isn't it.
Yes, a legal challenge succeeds against carefully drafted act, then that's going to put the cat amongst the pigeons somewhat the some of this was for salt when the act was passed last year, release, and many other charities were saying they were certain definitions in the act, it would be open to challenge.
This is just one of them.
And, to my knowledge, this is the first successful challenge, but there may be other problems to come.
Are you dismayed by my absolutely as Mike said, it's something that we warned about, And this is now wasted resources.
And then there's also these, these are too defendants who have had the confidence to challenge the law, but there's plenty of people who have gone before that, I think, around fifty people have been prosecuted for supply, nitrous oxide, or laughing gas, as with, as it's often colloquial and so we, we think that those are previous prosecutions and convictions, need to be reviewed as well to what end, then that they were those who'd been convicted, it might be more car pardoned or whatever the right legal expressions.
Well, they would have to ask individually for their cases to be considered again, but the bases for these two decisions in Taunton ending and in Southwark would would be a good reason to do that.
I don't know the reasons why those previous people were convicted, they may have pleaded guilty for fear of getting a custodial sentence, there may have been some kind of bargaining going on there.
But I would certainly urge anybody who has been affected by specifically the nitrous oxide part of of the legislation, and other parts to to contact their solicitors for further legal advice motorist.
Does the show that, in fact, it's going to be effectively impossible to have a law that says all legal highs are illegal affected, I would be all these psychoactive substances, the can be put into the same bag.
And then they are there are legal, and That's if they can't be supplied.
I don't know about impossible, but he's certainly a significant challenge to that idea that the government over the last couple of years were right to try and think how they can get around this conundrum of trying to pass a law for each individual drug or a schedule, so trying to make much broader definitions, but it was obvious that if you come to those much broader definitions and say, everything is controlled or prohibited.
Then there are going to be some very difficult definition, the issues.
This one is around, nitrous oxide and its medical uses, which seem to me to be incontrovertible as used in childbirth and, but there's a bigger one coming along around the definition of cycle activity for drugs to be included under this act, the law has to prove that they have a psychoactive effect on humans and for the vast majority are drugs circulating out there, there is no research to show that, so they're going to be some challenges on, so the very fact that people wouldn't buy them, unless they'd hate her, because if they had no effect, but common sense may say that people wouldn't spend money on them if they weren't cycle like prison.
I don't think that stands up in law, right.
So, how could it stand up in all, then we would say in have said, from the very beginning that actually this legislation is completely unworkable.
So we can't Bounce psychoactive drugs.
We need to remember is that, actually, the way that the government introduced a psychoactive substances act is a complete departure from how we have always dealt with substances.
So, if we look at the misuse of drugs act that purported purportedly based on the levels of harm to individuals and the wider society, but to try and bring in legislation which everything which has a potentially has a psychoactive effect on a person is at the very best difficult at the worst impossible, and it's not like the government weren't aware of the difficulties and prior to the introduction of the U.K. legislation island and Poland, tried to introduce similar blanket blanket bans and they had no effect on levels of use, and this is what our government is using as a measure of success of their drug policy is levels of use, we would say that's wrong, and saw what he was right to look at the Hartmann's, and that we, we know that actually the law enforcement approach in a country doesn't have any impact on levels of use, we know that is a fact we do the government had a report themselves in twenty fourteen, which looked at various different international models, and they themselves, came to the conclusion that there's no correlation between the law enforcement approach taken and the levels of use of drugs in that I know to be clear about that, no matter how strict, you are and how Thoroughly you prosecute these cases in every sentence, you're not going to have an effect.
That's what it seems unlikely that's what the research shows that we would say, we need to take a step back and look at different things.
If what we're trying to do is protect people, which we are, and protect them from the House.
We need to also protect them from the harms of criminalisation, so people who unnecessarily criminalised.
And then this has an impact on on their wider life in terms of employment prospects, but hang on, it sounds a little bit there as if you're saying we should protect people who sell these substances, even though we know that in many cases, those substances will cause real harm.
What we need to look at is perhaps why did drug policy reform in terms of regulations, said that the people selling those substances are approved by the government, and we know what people are taking in the way that, in the United States of many estates anywhere in the Americas, they've legalised cannabis, the models, the cannabis regulation are definitely useful and they may or may not translate in relationship to other drugs, but it's certainly something that we need to look at and consistently.
Until now, the government have refused to even look at this and is that what we should be doing.
Do you think about trees definitely as a phase where we should be looking and learning and trying New things and to credit the government, they tried something new.
Last year, with this act, the problem now is that the evaluation of whether that act is achieving what it set out to do is very thin, so there's a lot of conjecture and legal challenge, so we don't know whether this act has made things better or worse, but do you think we should be going down the road that releases suggesting, and that is that we de criminalised.
We do what the Americans have done on many, many bits done with cannabis for Hudson's, there's many versions of that many different approaches, and they are welcome, and they should be evaluated to see if they get a better outcome cos our traditional ways of trying to prohibit and punish people for using drugs have not worked.
So we have growing drug markets diversifying drug markets, we need to find new ways to respond that you can see the enormous political difficulty of any government saying, we're going to legalise something that could seriously seriously harm, if not kill your children, certainly, and those are very big leaps and shouldn't be undertaken without very careful consideration and evaluation.
Fortunately, as Kirsty says around the world.
These experiments were taking place.
Now we have our countries that are introducing controlled regimes regulated regimes.
Let's evaluate them on this particular act, it was an attempt to resolve a particular problem, there are signs that the retail sale on the high Street of these substances has gone down, but they're also signs that the market has moved underground normal street dealing and online, there's definite signs that the most harmful most harmful forms of use, like in prisons, or with the homeless or marginalised populations have gone up since the actors come in.
So these evaluations have to be looked at very carefully.
Are we are making the problem better or worse, but either way, in a word, if you would dump this act, absolutely, it's unworkable, Hi, I'm Louise Cooper, before you go.
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