MRC Position Statements

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MRC position statement on The Psychoactive Substances Act

In 2015, the UK government moved to, “ban the new generation of psychoactive drugs,” across the UK by making it an offence to produce, supply, import or export psychoactive substances.

Although the original form of the Psychoactive Substances Bill introduced to Parliament in May 2015 provided an exemption for investigational medical products, the Medical Research Council (MRC) had concerns that the detail of the legislation may have inadvertently inhibited worthwhile research and/or potential new therapeutics. We worked with relevant government departments – including the Department of Health, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, and the Home Office, which sponsors the Bill – to raise these concerns and help modify the Bill, to safeguard against any negative impacts on research.

An amendment to the Bill, accepted at the House of Commons Committee stage in October 2015 and then by the House of Lords in January 2016, created an exemption for approved scientific research. To qualify as approved, the researcher must have, “approval from a relevant ethics review body to carry out that research”. Ethics review bodies can be those recognised or established by the Health Research Authority or appointed by relevant Ministers, NHS bodies or publicly-funded research institutions including universities, charities or a research council. We welcomed this amendment.

The legislation was granted Royal Assent on 28 January 2016 and came into force on 6 April 2016.

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Last updated: 31 March 2022

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