Hundreds of people are scheduled to hold mass inhalation of nitrous oxide outside the British Parliament on Saturday, in a protest against the country’s plan to crackdown on legal highs. Under the U.K. government’s proposed Psychoactive Substances Bill, "supplying a psychoactive substance" and "possession of a psychoactive substance with intent to supply," with the exception of alcohol, nicotine and caffeine, will become an offense punishable by up to seven years in jail.
If the proposed bill is passed, the use of legally available drugs like nitrous oxide will be banned. Laughing gas is the fourth-largest drug by use in the U.K., with 400,000 people recording its use in 2013-14, Sky News reported.
The protest is being organized by the Psychedelic Society, which argues that the government should not curb the rights of people by imposing restrictions on what they can or cannot use. The protesters will gather at the Parliament Square in London at 3 p.m., local time, (10:00 a.m. EDT), inhale nitrous oxide, giggle for about 30 seconds and then disperse, the Guardian reported Friday.
"This is intended to make a serious point about the bill and the huge infringement of liberty that entails and about the fact that this bill is going to do more harm than good," Stephen Reid, director of the Psychedelic Society, told Sky News, adding: "It's going to make it harder for people to access education, it's not going to reduce the number of people taking these things and the sensible solution has to be legal regulation of these drugs."
The bill was proposed after several deaths were linked to legal highs -- drugs that produce a psychoactive response when taken, but are not currently classified under the country's drug rating system. Barrister Matthew Scott described the bill as "clumsy," "silly," and "incomprehensible," the Guardian reported.
David Nutt, former drugs tsar and a professor of neuropsychopharmacology, believes the desire to ban nitrous oxide is “bizarre.”
"It's probably one of the safest recreational substances there has ever been. It's been used for over 200 years, largely as an analgesic, a pain killer. It's been used by writers like Coleridge and philosophers like James to get insights into the brain and now it's being used by young people as an alternative to alcohol on the grounds that it's a lot safer than alcohol and a lot shorter acting," he told Sky News.
However, there are concerns of the protest being ill-timed after a teenager died possibly due to oxygen deprivation after nitrous inhalation on Tuesday, according to the Guardian.