"I am minded to remove this uncertainty by explicitly exempting poppers"

The UK’s home secretary, Priti Patel is looking to remove any ambivalence about the legality of Poppers (alkyl nitrates), which she called “uncertain” due to the 2016 Psychoactive Substances Act, which although was aimed at making so-called legal highs illegal, threatened to make poppers unlawful.

So are popper actually legal?

As it stands, Poppers do not sit on the Government’s exempted substances in Schedule 1 of the Psychoactive Substances Act. It is argued that their exemption is not actually needed as the Government’s own advisory board, the Advisory Council for the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) explained that the drugs do not affect the central nervous system, which the act is aimed at controlling.


In 2016, the then Home Secretary, Karen Bradley wrote to the ACMD about the usage and effects of poppers on a person saying,

“Our acceptance of your advice brings to an end the review process we were undertaking in parallel to consider the case for a bespoke exemption for the alkyl nitrites group under the Act on the basis of their beneficial and relationship effects.

“The process to exempt substances from the Act applies only to substances which meet the Act’s definition”.

“Lawfulness of the supply of poppers is uncertain”


Ms Patel is now looking to make the poppers’ exemption absolute by saying,

“A Court of Appeal judgment in 2018 confirmed that substances which have only an indirect psychoactive effect can still be captured by the 2016 Act,

“As a consequence the lawfulness of the supply of poppers is uncertain. I am minded to remove this uncertainty by explicitly exempting poppers from the 2016 Act. I would seek the ACMD’s advice on an exemption.


“My officials will work with you to provide more detail on the proposed wording of an exemption as you consider the issue.”

Has anyone been arrested for supplying poppers?

There have been no arrests or charges for the sale or possession of poppers in the United Kingdom and on the Crown Prosecution Service website says,

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“In light of advice from the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, with which Government has agreed, alkyl nitrates (‘poppers’) are not covered by the definition of a psychoactive substance in the Act.

“This is because they are not considered to have a direct effect on the central nervous system. The understanding is that this is unique to ‘poppers’.”

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