The Home Office has confirmed that nitrous oxide AKA laughing gas will become an illegal class C substance on 8 November.
There were concerns from the catering industry that the Government would seek to restrict the supply of the substance - which has applications in a number of culinary processes including making espumas (foams) and cocktails - or require end users to hold a license.
But following a consultation the Home Office appears to have opted for the soft-touch approach favoured by both the supply side and the catering industry itself.
As such, it is understood that the ‘banning’ of nitrous oxide will carry no administrative or cost burden for either suppliers or end users and the substance will remain straightforward to procure.
“Licences will not be required to carry nitrous oxide, but individual users will need to demonstrate they are lawfully in possession of nitrous oxide and not intending to consume it for psychoactive effects,” the Home Office statement on the matter reads.
The maximum sentence for production, supply importation or exportation of the drug for unlawful purposes has now doubled, from seven to 14 years’ imprisonment.
“As is already the case, there is also a responsibility on legitimate producers and suppliers of nitrous oxide to ‘not be reckless as to whether someone is buying their product to misuse, with no legitimate reason. Turning a blind eye will be committing an offence,” the statement continues.
The Government announced its intention to ban the substance early this year as part of a broader plan to crack down on anti-social behaviour.
It’s already illegal to produce or supply the gas for its psychoactive effects under the Psychoactive Substances Act 2016.