The coffee that isn’t

It could be a mistake to believe that the Psychoactive Substances Act 2016 has nothing to do with self-storage facilities.

If you are a regular reader of my ramblings you might have deduced that occasionally I have a certain sense of humour, and I must admit that it a trait that I don’t mind being accused of having. An occasional laugh, I feel, adds a little something to the day.

But of late I have had a few Admiral customers starting to return the compliment, and I must admit that occasionally I have been caught slightly unawares.

For example, last week I offered a regular at the Admiral Storage Facility a cup of coffee.  The gentleman in question, whom I have known as a customer for many years, immediately pulled out a notepad and pen, akin to those used by police officers in 1950’s movies when questioning someone while on the beat.

“Do you realise,” he demanded in mock police-officer tones, “that you have just offered me a item prohibited under the Psychoactive Substances Act 2016?”

I expressed profound surprise. “The Act,” he continued, “covers any substance which is capable of producing a psychoactive effect in a person who consumes it and is not an exempted substance.”

“Surely,” I protested, “caffeine is an exempted substance.”

He gave me a knowing look, and borrowing my laptop went onto the internet and typed in the name of the act and looked it up. Helpfully the government puts all such acts online these days, but I must say that now, having see the result of the writing displayed there, they might wish they had not.

For what we found within the act, under the list of exemptions was indeed “Caffeine or caffeine products” followed by the note that said that “caffeine product” means any product which (a)contains caffeine, and (b) does not contain any psychoactive substance.

I felt vindicated and said so, although in moderate tones, since the gent was a customer, and one respects one’s customers.

“But have you seen the definition of a psychoactive substance?” he asked, barely able to hide a grin.  We turned to that.  It was “any substance which is capable of producing a psychoactive effect in a person who consumes it, and is not an exempted substance.”

“What is a psychoactive effect?” I asked. We looked it up. It turns out to be a substance that is capable of, “Stimulating or depressing the person’s central nervous system to affect their mental functioning or emotional state.”

“So coffee contains caffeine, which by that definition is clearly as psychoactive substance,” my customer said.  “But – and I quote – a ‘“caffeine product” means any product which (a)contains caffeine, and (b)does not contain any psychoactive substance.”  Since coffee is a caffeine product which does contain a psychoactive substance – in that it changes behaviour and mood – coffee is not excluded. If coffee does not contain a psychoactive substance it clearly cannot be advertised as coffee under the rules of the Advertising Standards Authority.

We were bemused, and pondered. Turning to Wikipedia – our next venture – didn’t help either since that profound online edifice said, “ Caffeine is the world’s most widely consumed psychoactive drug.“

“Or else,” I said, “coffee is both included and excluded at the same time, a bit like those subatomic particles that are here and not here at the same time.”

We thought about this for a while, before my customer said, “what about water – is that excluded?”

We checked and it wasn’t.  “But water is surely hardly a psychoactive drug,” I protested.

“Have you ever been dehydrated, for example, on waking in the morning or after some strenuous exercise?”  he asked. I admitted to the former, although the latter is something of a distant memory.

“Then you will know that dehydration can make you feel slightly odd, a bit dizzy, and so forth.”  I agreed that could be the case.

“So taking water produces a psychoactive effect – it changes your mental well-being and your perception of the world.”

I pondered this further.  “In that case,” I added, “so does the air. If you go into a room with smoke in it, it can have all sorts of effects on you. Come out again into the clear air and your whole mental and physical state changes.”

My client – a bit of an adventurer himself – agreed.  “I’ve done a spot of the old underwater swimming”, he admitted, “and get your air mix wrong and it can have all sorts of funny effects.”

We thought further.  “What about alcohol?” I asked.

“Bit early for me,” he said, never missing a chance to score a point or three.  I let that pass and went back to the Act on the computer. Alcohol suffered the same fate as coffee. It was and it wasn’t.

“Think of anyone who quite likes a regular tipple,” I said. “If he doesn’t get his regular pint of an evening, he can have something of a mood swing, so the absence of alcohol is also a psychoactive substance.”

“You can’t have a substance which isn’t a substance,” my customer replied.

“Since the air is now banned, and coffee exists in an eternal state of being and non-being, I don’t see why not,” I replied.

We sat there for a few moments, pondering how much our law makers are paid each month, before the offer of coffee was finally accepted, and we enjoyed few moments of peaceful relaxation combined with legal or illegal intaking of liquid or not, depending on which reality our cups were in at that particular moment.

Admiral Self Storage Ltd
Bloxwich Lane
Tel: 0800 810 1125


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *