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Dear Prime Minister,

We the undersigned request that HM Government immediately reconsiders the proposed Psychoactive Substances Bill (2015).

Parliament is responsible for protecting citizens against the harms of drugs. However, the enactment of the Psychoactive Substances Bill would be deleterious to the freedoms, well-being and ultimate safety of UK citizens. The UN Drug Conventions were established under the assumption that prohibition would reduce drug use and therefore minimise drug-related harms. Instead, global drug use has increased significantly in the decades since these policies were incorporated into law. Many countries have witnessed the unintended and damaging consequences related to the dangers of an unregulated criminal market and the criminalisation of a large number of otherwise law-abiding citizens.

If enacted, the Psychoactive Substances Bill would be unlikely to reduce the market for new psychoactive substances (NPS), which are mostly sold “not for human consumption”. The law will place the market in the hands of unregulated criminal organisations; increasing the likelihood of violence between competitors over market control as well as driving market focus on products that are higher in price and potency. Unregulated illegal markets have no incentive to comply with quality assurance protocols and accurate labelling of products, resulting in increased health risks for users and a greater strain on the already overburdened National Health Service.

Medical science will suffer from the proposed legislation, just as it continues to suffer from the over rigid regulation of other controlled psychoactive substances. Scheduling psychoactive agents in a blanket ban will impede the development of novel psychiatric medicines and prevent vulnerable members of society from potentially benefiting from new treatments.

Furthermore, any legislation that prohibits the sale of all psychoactive compounds without proper consideration of their relative harms and benefits presents an unwarranted threat to the long-standing freedoms of UK citizens. It is not possible to legislate against all psychoactive agents without criminalising the sale of dozens of harmless, everyday products that produce changes in mood and behaviour, from fresh flowers and herbs to spices and incense.

If the Government is genuinely serious about reducing drug-related harms, it should ensure that policy-makers focus their attention on public health campaigns, wide-ranging educational initiatives, effective drug treatment strategies, and the adequate funding of relevant medical and scientific research.

Despite these concerns we welcome the fact that the Psychoactive Substances Bill does not target NPS possession for personal use and would strongly encourage the extension of this approach to the regulation of other psychoactive drugs. In general, however, we believe the bill to be very poorly drafted, unethical in principle, unenforceable in practice, and likely to constitute a real danger to the health and well-being of our nation’s citizens.

Yours sincerely,


Prof. David Nutt
Edmond J Safra Chair in Neuropsychopharmacology
Imperial College, London
Prof. Barry Everitt
Director of Research
University of Cambridge
Lord Ramsbotham
Former ADC General to HM the Queen
Former Chief Inspector of Prisons
Lord Rea
UK Health
Prof. Colin Blakemore
Former Executive Director
Medical Research Council, UK
Prof. Richard Ashcroft
Professor of Bioethics
Human Rights Collegium, Queen Mary University of London
Dr Rowan Williams
Magdalene College, Cambridge
Prof. Julian Savulescu
Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics, University of Oxford
Prof. Colin Drummond
Faculty of Addictions, Royal College of Psychiatrists
Dr Ian M. Kenway
Centre for Information Ethics and Public Policy
Prof. Graeme Henderson
Professor of Pharmacology
University of Bristol
Prof. Celia Morgan
Centre for Neuropsychopharmacology, University of Exeter
Prof. Ilana Crome
Professor of Addiction Psychiatry
University of Keele
Prof. Robin Mackenzie
Professor of Law
University of Kent
Dr James Rucker
Lecturer in Psychiatry
Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (IOPPN)
Dr Adam Winstock
Global Drugs Survey
Prof. A. C. Grayling
New College of the Humanities
Dr Charlotte Walsh
Lecturer in Law
University of Leicester
Prof Ilina Singh
Professor of Neuroscience & Society
University of Oxford
Dr Melissa Bone
Doctor of Law
University of Manchester
Dr Andrew Gallimore
University of York
Prof. Matthew Johnson
Professor of Psychiatry
Johns Hopkins School of Medicine
Patrick Hennessey
39 Essex Chambers
Dominic Taylor
Former Senior Officer
Prison Service HQ, Ministry of Justice
Sam Branson
Sundog Pictures
Dr Julian Huppert
Former Liberal Democrat Member of Parliament
Neil Woods
Detective Sergeant, Chairman
Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP UK)
Paul Flynn
Labour Member of Parliament
Newport West
Paul Whitehouse
Chief Constable (retired)
James Duffy
Strathclyde Police Federation
Francis Wilkinson
Chief Constable (ret.)
Annie Machon
Former Intelligence Officer
Jonathan Liebling
Political Director
United Patients Alliance
Amanda Feilding
Beckley Foundation
Dr Teri Krebs
Board Leader
EmmaSofia, Oslo
Niamh Eastwood
Executive Director
Darryl Bickler
Drug Equality Alliance
Martin Powell
Head of Campaigns
Transform Drug Policy Foundation
Dr Chris Ford
Clinical Director
International Doctors for Healthier Drug Policies
Richard Todd
Jason Reed
Executive Director
Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP UK)
The Culture High
Dr David Luke
Senior Lecturer in Psychology
University of Greenwich
Breaking Convention
Dr Ben Sessa
Consultant Psychiatrist, Senior Research Fellow
University of Cardiff
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Dr Cameron Adams
Research Associate in Anthropology
University of Kent
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Aimee Tollan
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David King
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