An evaluation of the Psychoactive Substances Act 2016

Burgess, Nicholas Stephen (2021) An evaluation of the Psychoactive Substances Act 2016. LL.M(R) thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Abstract

This thesis evaluates the Psychoactive Substances Act 2016 (PSA) from practical, theoretical and developmental perspectives. The PSA was created in response to the rise of New Psychoactive Substances (NPS), otherwise variously known and marketed as ‘legal highs’, ‘bath salts’, ‘research chemicals’, and ‘plant food’. In contrast to previous attempts to control recreational drugs – which individually list banned substances – the PSA employs a ‘blanket ban’ approach whereby all ‘psychoactive substances’ are proscribed, subject to limited exemptions.
The Government’s review of the PSA’s operation concluded that, overall, the Act has succeeded in its main goals of: ending NPS sales; ending the game of cat and mouse (whereby new substances are created faster than the Government can ban them); reducing psychoactive substance use; and reducing psychoactive substance-related harms. Chapter one of this thesis argues that the PSA has, in fact, failed to achieve these goals. Chapter two critiques the PSA from a primarily theoretical standpoint. It is argued that the Act conflicts with numerous normative principles of criminalisation (namely harm prevention, criminalising only conduct which is wrongful, and fair labelling) and of the rule of law (namely maximum legal certainty and proportionate sentencing). It is also argued that the PSA is an illegitimate exercise of state power, and some alternative (and more appropriate) means of regulating NPS are sketched. Chapter three considers the PSA’s continuing relevance in light of political and technological developments post-enactment, and its coherence with both international and domestic drug legislation and policy. It is argued that although the Act is coherent with international and domestic drug legislation, its justificatory rationale is threatened by technological advancements, and it may soon be superseded by changing priorities at the political/policy level.

Item Type: Thesis (LL.M(R))
Qualification Level: Masters
Keywords: Drugs, criminal, law.
Subjects: K Law > K Law (General)
Colleges/Schools: College of Social Sciences > School of Law
Supervisor's Name: Chalmers, Professor James
Date of Award: 2021
Depositing User: Mr Nicholas S Burgess
Unique ID: glathesis:2021-82112
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 08 Apr 2021 08:06
Last Modified: 08 Apr 2021 08:19
Thesis DOI: 10.5525/gla.thesis.82112
URI: http://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/82112

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