For forty years the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 has formed the corner stone of drug policy in Britain. The emergence of new psychoactive substances (‘legal highs’) during the past fifteen years or so has challenged the drug control system. The arrival in 2012 of a new psychoactive substance on the market, on average, every six days raises questions about how best to protect young people from unknown and unsafe drugs. The Government is considering this challenge and we hope this Inquiry report will make a helpful contribution to their deliberations.
Since first coming to public prominence at the end of 2009, legal highs have posed a major challenge to existing legal and legislative structures designed to deal with drugs. With the market in manufactured psychoactive substances like mephedrone moving faster than public policy can accommodate, this report asks whether the assumptions enshrined in the 40-year-old Misuse of Drugs Act (MDA) are still valid when applied 21st century drugs market.
Within the last decade the hitherto little known psychoactive substance of khat has emerged as a regional and international issue. In the Horn of Africa khat production has spurred an economic boom, but dramatic increases in consumption have raised public health concerns. Given the complexity of the topic spanning multiple academic disciplines and fields of professional practice, the need for a systematic overview is urgent.