British politicians are launching a last ditch attempt to stop poppers becoming illegal in the UK with the government determined to push through the new law.
If the bid fails, selling poppers or even giving them for free to friends will be illegal and punishable by up to seven years in jail, from 1 April.
Alkyl nitrites are used by an estimated one-third of gay and bi men, mostly to enhance sex.
While possessing alkyl nitrites will not be illegal, bringing them into the country will be.
And if you pass a bottle to a lover during sex, you will be treated like a drug dealer under the new law.
Poppers have been swept up in the Psychoactive Substances Bill which will have its final debate in the House of Commons in just one week (not needed) on 20 January.
The government is likely to win the vote, which will also ban other ‘legal highs’.
Unlike other drugs laws, the bill doesn’t ban particular substances but bans anything that is ‘psychoactive’.
This means there has to be a long list of things that are officially exempt from the law – including alcohol, tobacco, nicotine and even nutmeg, which are all psychoactive.
An amendment from the opposition Labour Party says ‘alkyl nitrites’ should be added to this list so they are still legal.
Mike Freer, an openly gay Conservative Member of Parliament, also says poppers should be allowed and intends to argue this in the debate next week.
He points out the government’s own Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs stated poppers do not have enough ‘harmful effects’ to make them a ‘societal problem’.
In a statement, Freer also warned: ‘A government ban would encourage sellers to make the drug available online, making it more difficult to enforce the ban.’
Freer urges fellow Conservative MP Mike Penning, the Home Office Minister who is in charge of the bill and wants a poppers ban, to exempt alkyl nitrites from the law for now.
This will give time to review the health risks involved and Penning could ban them later if needed.
Gay Star News has been told by several sources that in a private meeting Penning said the ban on poppers would come in but may be lifted some time in the future. He has not given any indication of when this review would be.
The government declined to answer questions about the ban put to them by Gay Star News.
But Penning did repeat his previous statement, saying the purpose of the new blanket law, including all psychoactive substances, was to ‘put an end to the game of cat and mouse in which new drugs appear on the market more quickly than government can identify and ban them.’
The bill is expected to clear both its report stage and third reading in Parliament on the same day next Wednesday and become law.
Unless Labour, SNP and Conservative MPs unite against a ban, the sale and distribution of poppers will be illegal across the UK from 1 April.