Possession of nitrous oxide, also known as “laughing gas”, will be illegal across the UK by the end of 2023, the Home Office has said.
It comes after the Levelling Up, Housing & Communities Secretary, Michael Gove, announced earlier this year that the drug would be banned as part of efforts to curb anti-social behaviour. Those caught producing or selling the drug could also risk up to 14 years behind bars under the new rules.
At the time of writing, the supply of nitrous oxide for recreational use is banned, but possession is not. However, there will be exemptions for legitimate uses of “happy crack”, mainly in the medical or catering industries.
On Tuesday (Sept. 5) Home Secretary Suella Braverman annouced in a statement: “The British people are fed up with yobs abusing drugs in public spaces and leaving behind a disgraceful mess for others to clean up. Earlier this year, the Prime Minister and I promised a zero-tolerance approach to antisocial behaviour and that is what we are delivering. If you are caught using ‘laughing gas’ as a drug, you could be hit with a hefty fine or face jail time.”
In August, the government unveiled plans to give police greater powers to test people arrested for all Class A drugs, including ecstasy. The Home Office reported 50,000 drug tests for cocaine and opiates had been conducted on suspects arrested in the twelve months, with over half coming back positive.
Ministers have said that they also plan to give police increased powers to test for some Class B drugs, including cannabis and ketamine, as well as growing the list of alleged crimes which can trigger a drugs test to include offences linked to anti-social behaviour.