The 1971 Act (amended through the Criminal justice 2003 Act, which came into effect in 2004) divides drugs into three classes depending on the degree of harm deemed attributable to each drug. In turn the maximum penalties for being convicted of an offence under the Act are fixed according to the class of drug.
The drugs which are deemed most harmful are in class A and those deemed least harmful are in class C. Within each class, penalties are highest for trafficking offences and lower for possession.
|Class||Drug||Possession||Supply and production|
|A||Crack cocaine, cocaine, ecstasy (MDMA), heroin, LSD, magic mushrooms, methadone, methamphetamine (crystal meth)||Up to 7 years in prison, an unlimited fine or both||Up to life in prison, an unlimited fine or both|
|B||Amphetamines, barbiturates, cannabis, codeine, ketamine, methylphenidate (Ritalin), synthetic cannabinoids, synthetic cathinones (eg mephedrone, methoxetamine)||Up to 5 years in prison, an unlimited fine or both||Up to 14 years in prison, an unlimited fine or both|
|C||Anabolic steroids, benzodiazepines (diazepam), gamma hydroxybutyrate (GHB), gamma-butyrolactone (GBL), piperazines (BZP), khat||Up to 2 years in prison, an unlimited fine or both (except anabolic steroids – it’s not an offence to possess them for personal use)||Up to 14 years in prison, an unlimited fine or both|
|Temporary class drugs*||Some methylphenidate substances (ethylphenidate, 3,4-dichloromethylphenidate (3,4-DCMP), methylnaphthidate (HDMP-28), isopropylphenidate (IPP or IPPD), 4-methylmethylphenidate, ethylnaphthidate, propylphenidate) and their simple derivatives||None, but police can take away a suspected temporary class drug||Up to 14 years in prison, an unlimited fine or both|
*The government can ban new drugs for 1 year under a ‘temporary banning order’ while they decide how the drugs should be classified.
You can also get a penalty for ‘psychoactive substances’, eg laughing gas.
|Psychoactive substances||Possession||Supply and production|
|Things that cause hallucinations, drowsiness or changes in alertness, perception of time and space, mood or empathy with others||None, unless you’re in prison||Up to 7 years in prison, an unlimited fine or both|
Food, alcohol, nicotine, caffeine, medicine and the types of drugs listed above don’t count as psychoactive substances.
Selected list of controlled drugs
Drugs are listed in alphabetical order of their non-proprietary name. Common trade (or proprietary) names of those marketed for medical use in the United Kingdom are given in brackets.
|Drug||Schedule 1986 Regulations||Class (1971 Act amended through the Criminal justice 2003 Act)|
|Cannabis and cannabis resin||1||B|
|Codeine (Actifed, Phensedyl)||2&5||B|
|Dihydrocodeine (DF 118)||2&5||B|
|Methadone (Physeptone) (EDDP)||2||A|
|Psilocin and related compounds, found in Liberty Cap mushrooms||1||A|
Maximum penalties under the law:
|Possession||2 years in jail and/or an unlimited fine|
|Supplying/dealing:||14 years in jail and/or an unlimited fine|
|Possession with intent to supply:||14 years in jail and/or an unlimited fine|