UK drug laws.


The Misuse of Drugs Act.
The main piece of legislation governing non medical drug use in the UK is the The Misuse of Drugs Act (1971). This act brings together bits and pieces from previous drug legislation and creates a framework of three categories which are known as:

Class A drugs.
Class B drugs.
Class C drugs.
  • (select one of these for more information)


  • The law makes possession, supply, cultivation and manufacture of the drugs in its classes illegal unless backed up by licences or prescriptions.

    The penalties for breach of the laws are graded by class so that the most severe penalties are reserved for those trafficking in Class A drugs. There is an assumption built in to this framework that the Class A drugs are the most harmful, Class B more harmful than Class C but less than Class A.

    Premises.
    Section 8 of the Misuse of Drugs covers the duties of owners and managers of premises. It is unlawful for a person knowingly to allow premises they occupy, own or manage to be used for supplying or offering to supply drugs or for the smoking of cannabis or opium or for cultivation or manufacture of controlled drugs.

    This means that parents, youth workers, teachers, pub managers, or anyone in charge of a building, would be breaking the law if they knowingly allowed such activity to take place on their premises.

    The Medicines Act.
    The 1968 Medicines Act governs the manufacture and supply of medicines and its enforcement only rarely affects the general public directly. It is aimed more at regulating the manufacturers although it can be used to prosecute people for selling drugs like steroids. The penalties are much less severe than the Misuse of Drugs Act and the case is much harder to prove.

    Controls on individual drugs.
    There are controls on many drugs under the Misuse of Drugs Act, the Medicines Act and under licensing laws - for tobacco and alcohol. For information about the legal status of individual drugs - look them up in the main index - each drug information file has a section on legal status.




    What if you get caught?

    Most police forces and individual police officers will take a pragmatic view of simple possession of drugs. In most cases of first arrest, the person concerned will probably get a caution. This doesn't mean that they've completely got away with it. The caution will be noted and records kept but there should be no need to prosecute, take anyone to court and there will not be a fine or imprisonment. Despite this a caution although likely is not automatic and full legal action can be taken.

    The police take a much tougher line on cases involving trafficking. This is a wide category and includes supply, offer to supply, production, import and export, cultivation and so on. The amount of money which changes hands will influence the seriousness of the cases but it isn't necessary to have any money moving for a supply offence to be proven. So, doing friends 'a favour' by buying some drugs for them for them - is quite risky from a legal point of view. Passing drugs on to them for no profit or even picking some magic mushrooms for them and passing on the dried mushrooms could be seen as trafficking and attract a serious charge and serious penalty on conviction.

    For individual legal advice about a drug case you can phone Release on 0345 366 666 (24 hr helpline 0207 603 8654) who will also be able to advise you on how to contact a lawyer specialising in drug cases.