Rupert Matthews, Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland Police and Crime Commissioner, has welcomed the imminent illegality of the misuse of nitrous oxide as a boost to his campaign to tackle anti-social behaviour (ASB).
The Government has announced that possession of nitrous oxide, also known as ‘laughing gas’, will be illegal from 8 November 2023. The move, announced as part of the government’s Anti-Social Behaviour Action Plan, will make nitrous oxide a controlled Class C drug under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971.
Consequences could include an unlimited fine, a visible community punishment, a caution – which would appear on their criminal record – and for repeat serious offenders, a prison sentence.
Rupert Matthews said: “This is another positive move that will help to drive down anti-social behaviour in our communities.
“I have received dozens of complaints about the silver canisters left behind by users of nitrous oxide. While the effects of abusing nitrous oxide are no laughing matter. Not only can it cause serious health issues, but its use leads to anti-social behaviour and criminality. This both blights communities and puts additional demand on our police officers.
“This move is designed to deter young people from using the substance as a psychoactive substances and consequentially reduce anti-social behaviour.
“Having supported the calls for nitrous oxide to be reclassified as a matter of urgency, I’m pleased to see the swift introduction of this legislation.”
There are still many necessary uses for nitrous oxide and those with a legitimate reason for possessing the substance will be exempt from the ban. For example, it will continue to be lawful for catering purposes and in maternity wards when used as pain relief during labour.
Licences will not be required to carry nitrous oxide, but individual users will need to demonstrate they are lawfully in possession of nitrous oxide and not intending to consume it for psychoactive effects.
People who repeatedly misuse nitrous oxide could face up to 2 years in prison whilst the maximum punishment for dealing has doubled to 14 years
New law forms part of government’s zero-tolerance response to anti-social behaviour and drug taking in public spaces
Legal exemption will be in place for legitimate use in healthcare and by businesses and organisations in both the public and private sectors