Psychoactive Substances Act 2016

Psychoactive Substances Act 2016

The Psychoactive Substances Act received Royal Assent on 28 January 2016. The act applies across the UK and came into force on 26 May 2016. Possession for personal use is not an offence, unless in prison.

The act:

  • makes it an offence to produce, supply, offer to supply, possess with intent to supply, possess on custodial premises, import or export psychoactive substances; that is, any substance intended for human consumption that is capable of producing a psychoactive effect. The maximum sentence will be 7 years’ imprisonment.
  • excludes legitimate substances, such as food, alcohol, tobacco, nicotine, caffeine and medical products from the scope of the offence, as well as controlled drugs, which continue to be regulated by the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971
  • exempts healthcare activities and approved scientific research from the offences under the act on the basis that persons engaged in such activities have a legitimate need to use psychoactive substances in their work
  • includes provision for civil sanctions – prohibition notices, premises notices, prohibition orders and premises orders (breach of the 2 orders will be a criminal offence) – to enable the police and local authorities to adopt a graded response to the supply of psychoactive substances in appropriate cases
  • provides powers to stop and search persons, vehicles and vessels, enter and search premises in accordance with a warrant, and to seize and destroy psychoactive substances.

Producers and suppliers may be given a Notice or Order as follows:

  • Prohibition Notice: a warning to stop doing prohibited activity
  • Premises Notice:  a warning to a property owner, landlord etc. to take steps to stop prohibited activity
  • Prohibition Order: a Court Order to stop doing prohibited activity
  • Premises Order: a Court Order to a property owner, landlord etc. to take steps to stop prohibited activity

Orders can last for up to three years and being in breach of an Order is a criminal offence punishable by a prison sentence of up to two years, an unlimited fine, or both.

See the Home Office guidance documentation on the Act, including guidance for retailers here.

DrugWatch factsheet: A simple (ish) guide to the Psychoactive Substances Act (PSA) (PDF)