Last laugh: Mass ‘hippy crack’ protest to mock Tory drug law in Parliament Square
Activists will gather in Parliament Square this weekend for a mass inhalation of nitrous oxide, also known as laughing gas or “hippy crack,” to protest the Conservative government’s crackdown on so-called “legal highs,” or psychoactive drugs.
Hundreds are expected to gather, fill balloons with the gas and simultaneously inhale as Big Ben strikes 3pm on Saturday.
The mass gas event is designed to oppose government’s Psychoactive Substances Bill, which is aimed at restricting mood-altering drugs. The bill had its third reading in parliament last week.
The legislation was drafted as a means of controlling so-called legal highs – drugs which are not banned but have similar effects to illegal substances.
“The position of the society is that actually people should be free to take whatever substances they see fit,” Stephen Reid, founder and director of the Psychedelic Society of London, told the Guardian.
“We see it as a personal choice, of liberty. It’s not to say that some drugs don’t carry risks, but there’s a lot of things in society that are risky, for example, extreme sports, and no one’s talking about banning them,” Reid said.
“A lot of members of the Psychedelic Society … thought this was a real affront to their liberty.”
“They thought the government has really overstepped the mark by doing this.”
Some claim, however, that while still technically legal, nitrous oxide carries similar risks to those associated with other mind-altering substances.
“Legal highs are simply not safe – we saw that just days ago with the death of a teenager who had inhaled laughing gas,” Jane Edbrooke, Lambeth Council’s cabinet member for neighborhoods, told The Guardian.
“It is our duty to keep our residents safe and this new order should deter people from supplying and using legal highs in the borough.”
Edbrooke also said the metallic canister in which laughing gas is dispensed and the behavior associated with its use had “blighted areas like Vauxhall and Clapham” and were a genuine concern for local authorities.
In June, scientists wrote an open letter to Home Secretary Theresa May, who has championed the new legislation, warning that the bill could have an impact on the medical development of experimental drugs used to treat illnesses.
“We encourage the Home Office to take the risk to medical research into consideration as the bill progresses, and to seek to ensure that the final draft does not pose a barrier to important scientific work, both in neuroscience and in other areas,” the letter read.
It was drafted by the presidents of the Academy of Medical Sciences, the British Pharmacological Society, the Royal College of Psychiatrists and the Society of Biology, among others.