I know that avowed enthusiasts for the Psychoactive Substances Act 2013 (“PSA”) will say “all in good time” but my two very present and real criticisms of the PSA are that:
(1) there is no agreed scientific model for assessing the risk of products to be approved and sold under the PSA; and
(2) there is no consistent policy and treatment under the PSA or by government towards all psychoactive substances (dictionary definition).
The result of the first criticism is that consumers do not really have any true measure, knowledge or indication of the level of harm of the product they are purchasing.
The result of the second criticism is that substances that do have a long history of scientific testing, medical studies and trial, and whose risks and benefits are known, have been excluded under the PSA.
It is my second criticism that bears relevance to this post and cannabis – medicinal or recreational.
Section 9 of the PSA reads:
“9. Meaning of psychoactive substance
(1) In this Act, unless the context otherwise requires, psychoactive substance means a substance, mixture, preparation, article, device, or thing that is capable of inducing a psychoactive effect (by any means) in an individual who uses the psychoactive substance.
(2) Psychoactive substance includes—
(a) an approved product:
(b) a substance, mixture, preparation, article, device, or thing that is, or that is of a kind that is, or belongs to a class that is, declared by the Governor-General by Order in Council made under section 99 to be a psychoactive substance for the purposes of this Act.
(3)Despite subsections (1) and (2), psychoactive substance does not include—
(a) a controlled drug specified or described in Schedule 1, 2, or 3 of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975:
(b) a precursor substance specified or described in Schedule 4 of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975:
(c) a medicine within the meaning of section 3 of the Medicines Act 1981 or a related product within the meaning of section 94 of that Act:
(d) a herbal remedy (within the meaning of section 2(1) of the Medicines Act 1981):
(e) a dietary supplement (within the meaning of regulation 2A of the Dietary Supplements Regulations 1985):
(f) any food (within the meaning of section 2 of the Food Act 1981):
(g) any alcohol, unless the alcohol contains a psychoactive substance as defined in subsection (1) or (2) that is not alcohol:
(h) any tobacco product (within the meaning of section 2(1) of the Smoke-free Environments Act 1990), unless the tobacco product contains a psychoactive substance as defined in subsection (1) or (2) that is not tobacco:
(i) a substance, mixture, preparation, article, device, or thing that is, or that is of a kind that is, or belongs to a class that is, declared by the Governor-General by Order in Council made under section 99 not to be a psychoactive substance for the purposes of this Act.”
To allow consistent policy and treatment for all psychoactive substances, I consider that subsection 9(3) should be deleted. With regard to cannabis, subsections 9(3) (a) and (c) should be deleted/amended so that an application for a licence to sell cannabis (the real thing) could be applied for. Why not? Cannabis and MDMA (also prohibited under the PSA) are two psychoactive substances that are both well tested and documented in reputable journals as being pretty well accepted in both medicine and science as having a therapeutic purpose. Furthermore, to allow the opportunity for an application for a licence to sell cannabis in exactly the same way as its synthetic imitations under the PSA, would be an opportunity to dispel some of the myths of cannabis. E.g., it “causing” psychosis and being a gateway drug etc. It is illogical, in my opinion, to enact the PSA to allow psychoactive substances that meet a required low level of risk yet, at the same time, to forbid almost all the desired psychoactive substances from its ambit.
Surely, if the government considers that the PSA is ready for the business of testing and sale of synthetic copies of the substances listed in the Schedules of the MODA, then they should be able to stand by their Act and test any psychoactive substance (dictionary definition) on its merits. But particularly the psychoactive substances which are accepted as beneficial to people and, here in particular, cannabis, which has thousands of years of recorded human history attached to it and no deaths.
It seems to me that the PSA – despite its worthy intentions and it being good legislation with a good purpose – stubbornly seems to draw the line at the substances that people actually want!
It is reminiscent of Henry Ford’s generous offer to the public: “Any customer can have a car painted any colour that he wants so long as it is black.”