Nitrous Oxide, the latest “legal high” & The Psychoactive Substances Act 2016: No Laughing Matter

Nitrous Oxide, or laughing gas, is well known for its euphoric and pain relieving effects as it is widely used as an anaesthetic in medicine and dentistry; it is even used in catering for whipped cream canisters. However, following the Psychoactive Substances Act 2016 and the case of R v Chapman & Others possession and supply of this latest “legal high” won’t leave you laughing for long.

In R v Chapman & Others the Court of Appeal addressed whether nitrous oxide is an “exempted substance” for the purposes of the Psychoactive Substances Act 2016 because it is a “medicinal product” in accordance with the Human Medicines Regulations 2012.  In this case the applicants had been convicted of possession with intent to supply a psychoactive substance, namely nitrous oxide. It was argued by the applicants that as nitrous oxide was used in medicine and catering it was an exempted substance and therefore the convictions should be quashed as under the Psychoactive Substances Act 2016 there was no offence in law for possession of a medicinal product with intent to supply.

The Court of Appeal held that the nitrous oxide in question could not be categorised as a medicinal product and therefore was not an exempted substance and the convictions were upheld.

Under a government crack down on “legal highs” this judgement sends a clear message from the Court to expect significant custodial sentences for these offences.

At Emery Johnson Astills we are highly experienced in dealing with drugs offences at all stages in the criminal justice system. For further information and advice in relation to drugs offences and sentencing, please contact the Crime Team at Emery Johnson Astills on 0116 255 4855.