Ex-Government advisor: Banning poppers is like the Tudors banning Catholicism

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A former Government advisor has compared a proposed ban on legal highs, including ‘poppers’, to a ban on Catholicism in Tudor times.

Poppers could be banned under new Government proposals to crack down on ‘legal highs’. Due to drugs being classified as illegal by their chemical compounds due to the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, tweaking compounds can mean drugs avoid the law.

However, a draft law would implement a blanket ban on the sale of legal highs and those found guilty of selling them could face up to seven years in jail.

Professor David Nutt wrote for the Huffington Post to say there is “hysteria” around legal highs.

He said: “Why the hysteria around legal highs, particularly drugs such as nitrous oxide [which] in its 200 year history hasn’t killed anyone? One reason for this seems to relate to the rise of the ‘head shop’ in many town centres. These are viewed like sex-shops as lowering the tone of localities and increasing public disorder (though never to the extent seen with premises selling alcohol).

Professor Nutt continued: “Another aspect is the opportunistic vilification of youth culture by the right-wing media who have labelled nitrous oxide as ‘hippy crack’, even though everyone knows it is very much less harmful than crack cocaine and no self-respecting hippy would be seen using it!””

He went on to compare the proposed ban to the ban on Catholicism in 1559, saying: “I would argue this is the worst assault on personal freedom since the 1559 Supremacy Act decreed that the practice of Catholic beliefs was illegal,” he wrote.

Professor Nutt was chairman of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs from January 2008 to November 2009, but was sacked for continually criticising drug classification policy of the then Labour Government.

As well as substances such as nitrous oxide, known as laughing gas, or “hippy crack” being banned under the proposed laws, amyl nitrite, or poppers as they are commonly known and which are often sold as room odourisers, could also be made illegal.

Under the proposals from the Home Office, police could be given new powers to shut down websites selling legal highs, and

Minister of State for Policing, Crime, Criminal Justice and Victims, Mike Penning, said: “Young people who take these substances are taking exceptional risks with their health and those who profit from their sale have a complete disregard for the potential consequences. That’s why we are targeting the suppliers.

“The landmark bill will fundamentally change the way we tackle new psychoactive substances – and put an end to the game of cat and mouse in which new drugs appear on the market more quickly than government can identify and ban them.

“The blanket ban will give police and other law enforcement agencies greater powers to tackle the reckless trade in psychoactive substances, instead of having to take a substance-by-substance approach.”