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An effort by lawmakers in the United Kingdom to curb the abuse of psychoactive drugs drew the ire of British scientists, who argued the proposal would severely restrict their research.

Prime Minister David Cameron, in the traditional speech read by Queen Elizabeth II at the opening of Parliament, outlined conservatives' agenda in the wake of their sweeping victory earlier in May.

Along with proposals regarding the European Union, the Scottish Parliament, terrorism and immigration, the speech included a provision that would essentially ban the production and distribution of all psychoactive substances.

The move comes in response to concerns over "legal highs" — synthetic drugs or other substances purchased in shops or online that, officials say, resulted in several deaths in the U.K. The law mirrors similar legislation in neighboring Ireland; violators could face seven years in jail.

Mike Penning, minister of state at the Home Office, touted the effort as putting "an end to the game of cat and mouse in which new drugs appear on the market more quickly than government can identify and ban them."

Critics, however, said the bill could end up handicapping the nation's already declining medical research. They argued current laws prevent scientists from determining the potential benefits of LSD or hallucinogenic mushrooms, and said the proposed restrictions could prevent the discovery of new medications altogether.

David Nutt, a former government drug adviser, said laws already in place hampered research into Parkinson's disease and anti-smoking drugs.

“It’s going to end brain research in this country,” Nutt told The Guardian. "It will be disastrous."

Other critics argued the legislation could never be properly enforced and suggested bans enacted over the last five year resulted in no discernable difference in drug abuse.

"The definition of what's considered psychoactive is so broad as to be unworkable," Stefanie Jones of the Drug Policy Alliance told Rolling Stone.

Proponents countered that the bill is necessary to counter a dangerous and growing trend.

"These are not safe drugs and should not be sold on the high street," said Ann Lucas of the Local Government Association, a group of councils from England and Wales.
 

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