The law

The Misuse of Drugs Act

The Misuse of Drugs Act1971 (MoDA) is a legal framework to allow the control of drugs and includes laws on licensing, production, supply and possession. It controls drugs based on their chemical structure and since enactment over 500 chemicals have been outlawed. Penalties depend on the type of drug and they are classified as Class A, B or C. These drugs are illegal to have, sell or give away.

If someone needs help after taking drugs it is important to call an ambulance rather than worrying about getting into trouble.

Class A drug

Penalties for possession are up to 7 years in prison and/or an unlimited fine. Penalties for supply are up to life in prison and/or an unlimited fine.

Class B drug

Penalties for possession are up to five years in prison and/or an unlimited fine. Penalties for supply are up to 14 years in prison and/or an unlimited fine.

Class C drug

Penalties for possession without a prescription are up to 2 years in prison and/or an unlimited fine. Penalties for supply are up to 14 years in prison and/or an unlimited fine. (Benzodiazepine drugs will be Class C unless prescribed by a doctor)

Psychoactive Substances Act 2016

Psychoactive Substances, also known as New or Novel Psychoactive Substances (NPS) and which used to be known as “legal highs” or “legals” are now covered by The Psychoactive Substances Act (PSA).

It was introduced in the UK in 2016 and makes it an offence to manufacture, export/import (i.e. buying from a non-UK website) supply or offer to supply any psychoactive substance, if likely to be used for its psychoactive effects.

Despite being psychoactive, alcohol, nicotine, tobacco and caffeine are exempt from the act. Under the PSA, possession with intent to supply is an offence. Possession is not an offence, except in a ‘custodial institution’ (e.g. prison, young offenders centre). Penalties range from civil sanctions to a 7-year prison sentence but some offences will be considered to be aggravated, including selling to under 18s or around schools and children’s homes etc. The Human Medicines Regulations (2012) and the Misuse of Drugs Act (1971) including Temporary Class Drug Orders (TCDOs) will remain unchanged. The police have increased powers to stop and search individuals and premises, and NPS may be treated like a controlled drug until proven otherwise.

Restricted Sales

Some drugs are legal to sell under restricted conditions. For example alcohol can only be sold to people over the age of 18 and in Scotland it can only be sold in shops between the hours of 10am and 10pm or sold in “licensed premises” such as bars, restaurants and nightclubs. It is an offence to sell alcohol to anyone under the age of 18 and it is also illegal to purchase alcohol for anyone under the age of 18.

Tobacco is also restricted to only be sold to people over the age of 18.

Medicines

There is also a law about the sale of medicines. The Medicines Act 1968 covers the control of medicines for human use and for veterinary use, which includes the manufacture and supply of medicines. If you have a drug that is considered a medicine without a prescription it could be illegal to have, sell or give it away.