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Drugs law overview

The Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 categorises drugs (or ‘controlled substances’) according to their perceived harmfulness and makes their ‘production, supply and possession’ illegal except in clearly defined circumstances, as set out in the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001.

Misuse of Drugs Act 1971

The Misuse of Drugs Act not only criminalises the production, supply and possession of controlled drugs, it also makes it unlawful to allow one’s premises to be used for the purpose of producing or supplying them.

To enforce the law the police have special powers to stop, detain and search people on ‘reasonable suspicion’ that they are in possession of controlled drugs.

The Misuse of Drugs Act categorises controlled substances into three classes according to their relative harmfulness when used:

Class A Drugs

This class includes ecstasy, cocaine, crack, magic mushrooms, methylamphetamine (crystal meth), heroin, LSD, mescaline, methadone, morphine, opium and injectable forms of Class B drugs.

Penalties for possession: up to seven years in prison or an unlimited fine, or both.

Penalties for dealing: up to life in prison or an unlimited fine, or both.

Class B Drugs

This class includes oral preparations of amphetamines, barbiturates, cannabis, codeine and methaqualone (Mandrax).

Penalties for possession: up to five years in prison or an unlimited fine, or both.

Penalties for dealing: up to 14 years in prison or an unlimited fine, or both.

Class C Drugs

This class includes most benzodiazapines (e.g., Temazepam, Valium), ketamine, gammahydroxybutyrate (GHB), other less harmful drugs of the amphetamine group, and anabolic steroids.

Penalties for possession: up to two years in prison or an unlimited fine, or both.

Penalties for dealing: up to 14 years in prison or an unlimited fine, or both.

Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001

Since most controlled substances have medical and/or scientific uses, there are various exemptions to the general prohibition on possession and supply.

Under the Misuse of Drugs Regulations, substances are categorised under five schedules to determine how broad an exemption applies.

Schedule 1

This schedule includes include marijuana / cannabis, coca leaf, ecstasy, LSD, raw opium and psilocin (when extracted from magic mushrooms).

These drugs are not authorised for medical use and can only be supplied, possessed or administered in exceptional circumstances under a special Home Office licence (e.g., for research purposes).

Schedule 2

This schedule includes amphetamines, cocaine, dihydrocodeine, Diconal, heroin, methadone, morphine, opium in medicinal form, pethidine and Ritalin.

These drugs are available for medical use and can be prescribed by doctors. It is illegal for people to be in possession of these drugs without a prescription. They are also subject to strict record keeping and storage requirements.

Schedule 3

These drugs include barbiturates and Rohypnol and temazepam tranquillisers, which are subject to less stringent record keeping and storage requirements than Schedule 2 drugs.

Schedule 4

This schedule has two parts: Part 1 comprises most minor tranquillisers and a few other substances, which can only be lawfully possessed under prescription. Part 2 drugs comprise anabolic steroids, which can be legally possessed in medicinal form without a prescription but are illegal to supply to other people.

Schedule 5

This schedule includes cough medicines, anti-diarrhoea agents and mild painkillers, most of which can be bought over-the-counter at a pharmacy without a prescription. Once bought, however, they cannot legally be supplied to another person.

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Source:
FindLaw
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