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Legal Status of Poppers

Poppers is the name used to refer to a group of chemicals used as a recreational drug. The main chemical is amyl nitrite. It is sold in small vials in the form of a liquid and it is just smelled from the bottle to get a high. Amyl nitrite is known to be a muscle relaxant and its widest use in the UK and other parts of the world is among the LGBT community. The chemical is said to be used by this community just before having sex. The legislation on the use of poppers is slightly ambiguous. The use and possession of poppers are not illegal while selling it is illegal. There are a wide range of poppers available on the market, typically of either different strengths or under various aroma names, for instance, Amsterdam Gold Poppers, English Poppers UK, and Berlin XXX poppers.

Legislation Leaves Room for Interpretation

The latest to raise the legality of the use of amyl nitrite is none other than the UK Home Secretary Priti Patel. According to a BBC report, Patel has written to Professor Owen Bowden-Jones, chairman of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) to issue a clarification. She wants AMCD to clearly state that there is no legal ban on poppers under the Psychoactive Substances Act that was passed in the UK Parliament in 2016.

The underlying question is whether amyl nitrite can be defined as a psychoactive substance or not under the Act. The AMCD had earlier said that poppers are not covered under the Act.

Laws Governing Poppers Have a Long History

The subject of banning poppers has been a hotly debated one with some activist groups demanding a ban on it but the nodal agencies are not inclined to impose any ban. The fact is when amyl nitrate is mentioned everywhere, the manufacturers have been pushing into the market other derivatives like butyl nitrite, isobutyl nitrite or isopropyl nitrite. These have the same effect but are not covered by any legislation. These chemicals are sold indicating other uses, like leather cleaner or as room odorisers. These products are then sold in retail outlets along with other products that the people from the LGBT community buy, including in bars and nightclubs.

How Does it Fare in Other Countries?

Australia has amended its laws governing poppers and effective February 2020, poppers can be purchased at pharmacies against prescription. There is, however, a lot of apprehension among observes that the formalities required to be completed by the manufacturers and resellers till the product reaches the pharmacies may be long-drawn.

Canada has banned the use of poppers. Therefore, selling and possessing the product is illegal in that country. The Canadian government has not explained why the ban has been imposed.

In the USA, there are restrictions on amyl nitrite and those selling and using the substance have shifted to the other forms like isobutyl nitrite. There is still some confusion in the US on poppers.

Amyl nitrite and some of its derivatives, commonly referred to as poppers, find wide use by the LGBT community while performing sex. It is a muscle relaxant and gives a high when inhaled. The legislation on the use of this substance in the UK and some other countries has remained vague till today. There are increasing voices for making poppers legal to use.

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Written by Marcus Richards

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