The notoriously awful Dangerous Dogs Act may soon have a rival
It’s not often parliamentary debates get people talking, but deliberations on the law of legal highs are so controversial that Twitter users couldn’t help but get stuck in.
Yesterday, MPs debated the Psychoactive Substances Bill — a much-awaited legislative initiative aimed at banning the use of legal highs.
There were some surprising revelations during the debate — MP Crispin Blunt admitted to using poppers.
But it’s the technical wording of the law that has sparked the biggest Twitterati backlash.
Novel Psychoactive Substances are a major issue, but the Psychoactive Substances Bill is going to be a terrible law.
— Kris (@k_d85) January 20, 2016
This Psychoactive Substances Bill is a shambles that's just going to put yet more casual drug users on collision course with the law.
— Cold Snap (@greenbiteything) January 20, 2016
the psychoactive substances bill is the clumsiest piece of legislation
— Ryan Diston (@RyanDiston9) January 20, 2016
The Psychoactive Substances Bill is the most badly drafted law since the last Bill this legally illiterate government spewed in our faces
— Balti Pie (@BaltiPie1) January 20, 2016
So what’s all the fuss about?
Prohibitions need to be precise: You need to know whether you are inside or outside the scope of the prohibition so you can regulate your conduct.
And that’s the very problem with this bill: it’s incredibly vague.
According to the bill, a psychoactive substance is one that has a “psychoactive effect” — an effect on a person’s “mental functioning or emotional state”.
It’s pretty impossible to pin down what this actually means, which Twitter users were quick to point out.
Hope the government includes nutmeg in the psychoactive substances bill. That's more intense than many illegal substances
— Will Black (@WillBlackWriter) January 20, 2016
There are widespread fears that the bill, if enacted, will prompt a repeat of the Dangerous Dogs Act (DDA) controversy of 1991.
The Psychoactive Substances Bill is, without doubt, the stupidest piece of legislation before MPs since the Dangerous Dogs Act.
— Simon Cooke (@SimonMagus) January 20, 2016
But then the Psychoactive Substances Bill is the most poorly constructed piece of legislation since the Dangerous Dogs Act
— Tom Copley (@tomcopley) January 20, 2016
This piece of legislation was rushed through parliament in response to a raft of attacks on people by aggressive dogs.
The DDA was not subjected to the proper level of scrutiny that usually comes with law reform, and — just like the Psychoactive Substances Bill — failed to clearly define what it was banning. It is widely considered to be “one of the most misconceived and ineffective pieces of legislation ever to pass into British law”.
There are also criticisms that the bill could hinder research into child psychology, and will implicitly create a new wave of illegal, underground drug production and supply.
Definitely one to look out for.