PhD researcher addresses blanket banning of legal highs

Yewande Okuleye from the School of History, alongside researchers from the University of Warwick, addressed the recent UK legislation to ban ‘legal highs’ by instituting a blanket ban on psychoactive substances at an event on Tuesday 17 May.

Yewande discussed her PhD thesis entitled ‘The Scent of Terpene Molecules’, which re-conceptualises medical cannabis through the embodied experience of smell.

The cultural engagement event, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and organised by researchers from the University of Warwick, took the form of a ‘Psychoactive Supper’ in which a selection of foodstuffs containing psychoactive ingredients were on show in a bid to stimulate a discussion about the concept of psychoactivity.

In addition to the food experiences designed by scientists and culinary experts, short talks were delivered by leading experts in psychopharmacology, neuroscience of moral behaviour, activists, politicians and opinion-makers.

The event is central to ‘The Psychoactive Substances Act (2016)’, a new UK legislation scheduled to come into effect on 26 May that seeks to ban ‘legal highs’ by introducing a blanket ban on all psychoactive substances.

Whilst the Act makes exceptions for psychoactive substances normally consumed as food, such as caffeine, alcohol and nicotine, many argue whether a line should be drawn between food and drugs as common foods often activate the same pathways in the brain as illegal drugs.