Press release

Temporary bans to fight back against 'legal highs'

Swifter action to tackle new 'legal highs' through temporary bans was promised today by James Brokenshire, minister for crime prevention.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

For the first time the government will be able to react quickly as new substances emerge with temporary 12 month bans. The bans will send a clear message to users that these substances carry a risk and will prevent new chemicals becoming widely available.

The government will introduce new legislation which will enable police to confiscate suspected substances and the UK Border Agency will seize shipments entering the country. The penalty for supply will be a maximum of 14 years in prison and an unlimited fine. Possession of a temporarily banned substance for personal use would not be a criminal offence to prevent the unnecessary criminalisation of young people.

Statement from the crime prevention minister

Minister for crime prevention James Brokenshire said: ‘The drugs market is changing and we need to adapt current laws to allow us to act more quickly. 

‘The temporary ban allows us to act straight away to stop new substances gaining a foothold in the market and help us tackle unscrupulous drug dealers trying to get round the law by peddling dangerous chemicals to young people.

‘However, anyone tempted to try a legal high must understand it is not safe or sensible to take a substance when you do not know what it is or what is in it - especially when some are claimed to be pond cleaner or bath salts.’

Substances would be temporarily banned following initial consideration by the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD). The ACMD will then conduct a comprehensive review of the harms of the substance and advise whether it should be permanently banned.

‘Legal highs’ including naphyrone, mephedrone, GBL and synthetic cannabinoids have already been banned, but this new system of temporary bans will allow for a faster response.

There is clear evidence substances advertised as new drugs - including Ivory Wave - often contain drugs, like mephedrone, which are already banned and known to be harmful.  The temporary bans will apply to new chemical substances that have not previously been banned.

Today the government has also published a consultation on the new drug strategy, which sets out the key themes of the government’s vision for drugs policy - which includes preventing drug taking, disrupting drug supply, strengthening enforcement, and promoting drug treatment and recovery. The targeted consultation is an opportunity for drug experts, charities and law enforcement agencies to help inform the new drug strategy, which will be launched before the end of the year.

Notes to editors 

The government set out in the coalition document:

We will introduce a system of temporary bans on new ‘legal highs’ while health issues are considered by independent experts. We will not permanently ban a substance without receiving full advice from the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs.

Substances in the temporary class will be illegal to produce or supply under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971.

The offences listed for any substances added to the temporary class will include possession with intent to supply, offer to supply, supply, importation, exportation and production.

Subject to parliamentary approval the system of temporary bans will be introduced by the end of next year.

Read the drug strategy consultation or respond now using our online form.

For further information call the Home Office Press Office on 020 7035 3535.

Published 19 August 2010