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Policing drugs

Authorised Professional Practice

This page is from APP, the official source of professional practice for policing.

First published
Written by College of Policing
2 mins read

The following documents provide advice and guidance on policing drugs.

Nitrous oxide

Possession of nitrous oxide – also known as laughing gas – becomes illegal from 8 November 2023 as a controlled Class C drug under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971.

Possession where a person intends to wrongfully inhale it (for example, to 'get high’) will be an offence.

Consequences could include:

  • unlimited fine
  • visible community punishment
  • caution – which would appear on their criminal record
  • prison sentence for repeat serious offenders of up to two years 
  • maximum prison sentence of 14 years for dealers 

For further information see:

Psychoactive Substances Act 2016

The Psychoactive Substances Act 2016 (the Act), came into force 26 May 2016.

A psychoactive substance is any substance capable of producing a psychoactive effect in the person who consumes it, and it is not an exempted substance (s 2(1)(a) and (b) of the Act). ‘Psychoactive substance’ is an umbrella term for products that are intended to mimic the effects of controlled drugs.

For further information see Psychoactive Substances Act 2016 briefing note.

For further resources see also the Knowledge Hub Drugs community (this link is available to authorised users who are logged on to the Knowledge Hub).

Guidelines on khat possession

Khat became a controlled Class C drug on 24 June 2014. The Government decided to ban khat under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 to address community concerns on the health and social harms of khat use in the UK and the risk of the UK becoming a single, regional khat smuggling hub for onward trafficking to countries where it is banned.

For further information see National Policing Guidelines on KHAT Possession for Personal Use Intervention Framework (England & Wales Only).

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