New drug law in chaos as judges rule laughing gas is legal

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A LAW that bans legal highs in Britain has come under fire after the collapse of two separate court cases brought forward under the new legislation.

The News campaigned for the Psychoactive Substances Act, which was introduced last year, to combat the rise of legal highs.

But now the legislation is in crisis and faces a review after a loop hole emerged revealed that certain ‘highs’ were exempt.

Two separate trials of people accused of intending to supply nitrous oxide – or laughing gas – at festivals were stopped after the courts heard the drug is exempt from the law.

Laughing gas is taken by hundreds of thousands of people every year as a recreational drug.

But the gas is also used by doctors for its pain-relieving properties and food manufacturers to help create whipped cream.

A subsection within the new act exempts medical products defined as ‘restoring, correcting or modifying a physiological function by exerting a pharmacological, immunological or metabolic action’, the BBC has reported.

Hundreds of people have been arrested and 50 dealers prosecuted and even jailed under the legislation since it came into force in May last year.

At the time the government warned sellers of the legal high for recreational use would face up to seven years in prison.

Ryan Egan and Kenan Buckley, who are in their twenties, were both arrested after carrying nitrous oxide into Glastonbury last year and charged with one count each of possession of a psychoactive substance with intent to supply.

But their defence barristers said laughing gas cannot be counted as a ‘psychoactive substance’ and Judge Paul Garlick agreed, throwing the case out during its hearing at Taunton Crown Court.

Drug charity Release says the cases prove the new law is ‘fundamentally flawed’ and has called for all cases to be reviewed.

Kirstie Douse, head of legal services, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘It’s something that we’ve warned about and this is now wasted resources.

‘These are two defendants who’ve had the confidence to challenge the law. But there’s plenty of people who’ve gone before that – I think around 50 people have been prosecuted for supplying nitrous oxide.

‘We think that those previous prosecutions and convictions need to be reviewed as well.

‘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.

‘I would certainly urge anyone who has been affected by specifically the nitrous oxide part of the legislation and other parts to contact their solicitors for further legal advice.’