"This new law will give us more powers to tackle nitrous oxide and the anti-social behaviour (ASB) linked to it."
That’s the message from one of our senior officers on the day new legislation restricting its possession comes into effect.
From Wednesday 8 November, it is illegal to possess nitrous oxide for the purpose of getting high and is now classified as a Class C drug under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971.
This means that it is now a criminal offence to possess nitrous oxide without a legitimate reason, as opposed to just supply and intent to supply.
Under the legislation, repeat, serious users could face up to two years in prison while those convicted of supplying it could face up to 14 years.
Nitrous oxide heavily associated with anti-social behaviour
Chief Superintendent Simon Anslow, Essex Police’s lead on drugs, said:
“We are committed to tackling anti-social behaviour and nitrous oxide is heavily associated with wide ASB. “It will give officers more options when dealing with ASB, which we know continues to be a major concern across our communities. “It’s important that we also continue to stress that a responsibility lies with retailers to ensure they are aware of what the law says. “They have a moral and legal duty to ensure that they’re doing everything they can when selling the product to ascertain that it is being purchased for a legitimate reason. “We’ll take a proportionate approach to tackling those found in possession of nitrous oxide cannisters. “We’ll also consider enforcement action and that could include a Penalty Notice for Disorder, community resolutions, cautions, or prosecution. “If someone’s in possession of a number of cannisters, they could be prosecuted for possession with intent to supply.”
A nuisance to communities
Superintendent Naomi Edwards, Essex Police’s lead on anti-social behaviour, said:
"The use of Nitrous oxide - widely known as laughing gas - in public spaces is a nuisance to communities.
“Cannisters are often discarded in the street and close to schools and it is one of the main contributors to youth ASB.
“Including the significant impact this has on health, this also impacts on communities where the after effects of vomiting and nausea are left in open spaces where people want to feel safe.”