As of November 8, 2023, those caught with nitrous oxide in their possession could land up to two years in prison, while those looking to supply the drug could receive 14 years of jail time.
Nitrous oxide, which is commonly used by inhaling the drug for its psychoactive effect, is one of the most commonly used recreational drugs by 16 to 24-year-olds.
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The nationwide crackdown came into force yesterday after months of deliberations, now moving it into a class C category. The ban was made as part of the government’s Anti-Social Behaviour Action Plan.
“Today we are sending a clear signal to people, especially young people, that not only is abuse of nitrous oxide dangerous to their health, but it is also illegal and those caught possessing it will face consequences,” says Crime and Policing Minister Chris Philp.
“For too long the use of this drug in public spaces has contributed to anti-social behaviour which is a blight on communities,” he added. “We will not accept it. This law gives the police the powers they need to take a zero-tolerance approach to this crime.”
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Despite its ban, experts have previously warned that tightening restrictions on the drug could have "significant unintended consequences", which would be disproportionate to the harm it causes.
Those in possession could now face an “unlimited fine”, a visible community punishment, a caution appearing on a person’s criminal record, and jail time for repeat offenders.
The ban will not come into effect in Guernsey, the government has said. Chair of the misuse of drugs advisory group, Teena Bhogal, said that Guernsey did not face “the same challenges” as the UK with nitrous oxide.
Read our investigation into nitrous oxide use in the UK here.
Gemma Ross is Mixmag's Assistant Editor, follow her on Twitter