‘Laughing Gas’ – what’s legal and what isn’t?

November 8, 2017

Nitrous Oxide, a drug commonly known as ‘Laughing Gas’, is currently in the news following cases in the courts involving people in possession and supplying the gas – which is a drug under the Psychoactive Substances Act 2016.  There is a big difference between just carrying the gas, and having the intention to supply the gas; supplying drugs is a serious criminal offence with a maximum sentence of up to 7 years in prison.  Importantly, you don’t have to be trying to make money to be guilty of having the intention to supply drugs.

Although a recent Court of Appeal case reviewed whether there was a defence based on the fact that Nitrous Oxide is a medicinal product he court stated that they were “satisfied that in the circumstances of these cases the nitrous oxide in question could not be categorised as a medicinal product and therefore was not an exempted substance. In our judgment, the matter is clear on existing authority.”

Is ‘Laughing Gas’ really a medicinal product?

Whether or not Nitrous Oxide is medicinal, would depend on the circumstances. The 2016 Act applies to substances by reference to the effects they give, and whether someone has the intention to supply to others for recreational purposes. Nitrous oxide is commonly used for medical purposes, however this does not necessarily mean that the 2016 Act doesn’t apply. This means that regardless of the chemicals in the Nitrous oxide, the defendant must therefore prove that it was not intended for recreational purposes and for abusing its psychoactive effects.  In recent cases where the defendant intended to sell the canisters on to others, and that there was no underlying medical reason, therefore they were prosecuted and convicted.

If you require any advice about drug or other criminal offences, please contact Brett Loveday at lovedayb@tuckerssolicitors.com or on 020 7388 8333.