The Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) has published new guidance for retailers on prohibited products ahead of the Psychoactive Substances Act, which comes into force on May 26.

The new legislation is designed to prevent the sale of items that are commonly known as ‘legal highs’ by cracking down on high street merchandisers. The Act will have implications for responsible retailers which in many cases may sell potentially ‘psychoactive substances’, such as butane and solvents entirely legitimately.

There are no legal age restrictions on the sale of psychoactive substances, but under the new rules retailers are expected to take reasonable steps to ensure that they are aware of the potential misuse of a psychoactive substance.

Advice from the ACS includes:

  • · Be aware of any substances you sell in store that could be psychoactive
  • · Make sure your staff are trained to be able to identify and assess the risk of the psychoactive substances you sell
  • · Consider placing warning signs in store to highlight policies to customers and staff
  • · Consider policy to restrict the quantity of psychoactive substances being sold ie using Electronic Point of Sale

James Lowman, ACS chief executive, said: “Convenience stores are on the front line preventing the misuse of psychoactive substances and other ‘legal highs’ to consumers. We have worked closely with the Home Office on the development of our guidance which provides clarity for retailers on the steps that they need to take to stay within the law under the new regulations, and what to look out for when serving customers that might be looking to misuse potentially psychoactive products.”

Speaking at a recent ACS seminar, Jamie McLellan, senior policy advisor for Home Office’s drugs and alcohol unit, said retailers could face a prison sentence if found guilty of selling products made illegal by the Act.

“The challenges that the government faces is that new legal highs are introduced to communities at such a rate that the government is challenged to keep up. The Psychoactive Substances Act’s target is to end open sale of substances that are psychoactive from high street retailers and UK based websites,” he said.

“Products that are exempt from the Act include alcohol, tobacco and medicinal products. If retailers are found guilty of selling products made illegal by the Act and show evidence that they have known or suspected the products to be psychoactive, they will face fines and could face a sentence between six months and seven years depending on the severity of the case. Responsible retailers however are not the focus of this Act as most do not sell products affected or deemed to be psychoactive.”

Full guidance can be downloaded on the ACS website here.