Police force gets legal highs ban wrong - by seizing still legal poppers

Crawley Police told the world about its first day 'drugs' seizure - then realised that, actually, poppers aren't covered by the new legal highs ban 

Adam Lusher
Friday 27 May 2016 10:38 BST
Poppers: still legal
Poppers: still legal

A Police force proudly announced its first drugs seizure under the new blanket ban on legal highs – only to be told that since the substances in question were poppers, they had no right to seize them because they were still legal.

Crawley Police announced it had confiscated a batch of poppers, using the twitter hashtag #PoppersIncluded within hours of the Government’s Psychoactive Substances Act coming into force.

This was despite the exclusion of poppers from the ban receiving widespread publicity, starting in January when Tory MP Crispin Blunt, the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, stood up in the House of Commons and “outed” himself as a poppers user.

Describing the Government’s early intention to ban poppers as “fantastically stupid”, Mr Blunt told MPs, and therefore the whole world: “I out myself as a poppers user. I was astonished to find that it’s proposed they be banned and, frankly, so were very many gay men.”

Following this eye-catching announcement, the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACDM) was asked to look again at poppers and the Government accepted its recommendation they be excluded from the ban because they acted only indirectly on the brain. As was also widely reported.

Police in Crawley, Sussex, however, appear not to have been keeping up.

Legal Highs in Newcastle

Within hours of the ban coming into effect, Crawley Police tweeted: “First day, first seizure in Crawley by PC Goater! One and only warning given. #NoSecondChance #PoppersIncluded.”

Social media users were not slow point out that there had surely been some mistake.

They drew the force’s attention to the ACDM recommendation and to Mr Blunt’s Commons statement, while twitter user James Higgins asked “So the officer that confiscated these has no jurisdiction to do so. Wouldn’t that be classed as theft?”

Undeterred, Crawley Police tweeted back, using block capitals to get the point across: “POPPERS are now ILLEGAL.”

Then they had a rethink.

“We are checking out the situation regarding the illegality of selling poppers and will update shortly,” Crawley Police tweeted.

Followed soon afterwards by:

“Crawley Police can announced that the ‘poppers’ were seized in error in good faith. All goods will be returned to the shops with apologies.”

They deleted their earlier posts which described poppers as illegal – althought they were nonetheless retweeted by social media users and reported upon by the website Pink News - explaining that to leave them up would be confusing.

And they confirmed to one worried social media user that down at the station, the poppers had been handled in such a way that they remained “completely intact and safe.”

A Sussex Police spokesman told The Independent: "Material was seized from three Crawley town centre shops. However they were 'popper' items, which are not covered by the new legislation. The officers realised the mistake, which was made in good faith, on the same day and the items will be returned to the shops with our apologies. The shops were not specialist 'head shops' of which there are none in Crawley. We are not naming them."

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