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The Psychoactive Substances Act

In 2015, the UK Government moved to “ban the new generation of psychoactive drugs” across the UK by making it an offence to produce, supply, import or export psychoactive substances.

Although the original form of the Psychoactive Substances Bill introduced to Parliament in May 2015 provided an exemption for investigational medical products, the MRC had concerns that the detail of the legislation may have inadvertently inhibited worthwhile research and/or potential new therapeutics. We worked with relevant Government departments – including the Department of Health, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and the Home Office, which sponsors the Bill – to raise these concerns and help modify the Bill, to safeguard against any negative impacts on research.

An amendment to the Bill, accepted at the House of Commons Committee stage in October 2015 and then by the House of Lords in January 2016, created an exemption for approved scientific research. To qualify as approved, the researcher must have “approval from a relevant ethics review body to carry out that research”; ethics review bodies can be those recognised or established by the  Health Research Authority, or appointed by relevant Ministers, NHS bodies, publicly-funded research institutions including universities, charities or a research council. We welcomed this amendment.

The legislation was granted Royal Assent on 28 January 2016 and comes into force on 6 April 2016. MRC researchers with queries should contact Dr Joanna Jenkinson; MRC Programme Manager for Mental Health and Addiction. Email: Joanna.jenkinson@headoffice.mrc.ac.uk

Further information:
Home Office documents
Text of the Bill – The research exemption is set out at Section (Exceptions to offences).