The Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 - EXPLAINED

Updated: Apr 26

Are all drugs the same in the eyes of the Law?


You might have heard someone say “Aye mate, Cocaine is a class A drug” but what does this actually mean?


The Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 states there are 3 drug classes:

  • Class A

  • Class B

  • Class C


The law classifies illegal drugs based on how dangerous they are seen to be to both the person taking the drug and to wider society. Class A is seen to be most harmful with Class C the least.

These drug classifications affect the consequences you could face if caught possessing, dealing or producing drugs.



The Misuse of Drugs Act

The Misuse of Drugs Act became law in 1971. The act was created to prevent the use of illegal drugs. This means there is a complete ban on possessing, dealing, supplying and manufacturing illegal drugs.


You might be thinking “1971 is such a long time ago, how is it still relevant to drugs and society today?”

Many people would agree with you. The general opinion is that this Act is out of date, and that it doesn’t discourage people from using drugs, it criminalises vulnerable drug users and discourages them from getting help for their addictions. Some of these people suggest alternatives such as decriminalising all drugs like they have done in Portugal.


So, since we are a while away from the system they have in Portugal, let us have a look at what we do have, The Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, in more detail.



Possession, supply, dealing and manufacturing. What is the difference?


Possession

If you have the drug on you. That could be in your pocket, down your bra, or even in your sock. If you are charged with possession you would only have a small amount of the drug on you for personal use.


Dealing or supply

When you have a large amount of the drug and there is evidence to suggest you are supplying it to someone else (tic lists, scales, bags and/or a second phone). When supplying a drug, you are giving someone a drug for nothing. For example, getting pills and sharing them with your pals for nothing in return. This is different from dealing. Dealing is when you are getting something in return for the drugs. This could be getting money, receiving goods, services or even sexual favours.



Production

This can be any involvement of the production of the drug to get it ready for selling. For example, it could be growing cannabis, stamping pills or bagging drugs.





Now that we better understand the difference between possession, dealing and production, let’s have a look at different drugs and the consequences if you’re found with them.



Drug classes and the consequences


Class A

Drugs: Ecstasy, LSD, Speed (when in liquid form prepared for injection.) Heroin, Cocaine, Crack, Methadone and Magic Mushrooms


The consequences

Possession: Up to 7 years imprisonment or an unlimited fine or both

Supply/Production: Up to life imprisonment or an unlimited fine or both


Class B

Drugs: Cannabis, Spice, Speed (powder form), Mephedrone and Ketamine


The consequences

Possession: Up to 5 years imprisonment or an unlimited fine or both

Supply/Production: Up to 14 years imprisonment or an unlimited fine or both


Class C

Drugs: Valium, GHB and Steroids


The consequences

Possession: Up to 2 years imprisonment or an unlimited fine or both

Supply/Production: Up to 14 years imprisonment or an unlimited fine or both

At the start of the blog, we asked you: “Are all drugs the same in the eyes of the law?” We now know the answer is no.


Different drugs carry different consequences. You don’t have to necessarily agree with the law, but it’s useful to understand it.


Having a criminal record for being involved in drug activity can result in time in prison and can impact your future opportunities. It can prevent you from getting certain jobs and stop you from travelling to certain countries.




Useful Links & Further Reading

https://www.drugwise.org.uk/what-are-the-uk-drug-laws/

https://www.drugtestingclinics.co.uk/drug-classifications/

https://www.release.org.uk/law/offences


You can read more about drugs in our other blog posts here.


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LANDED is a young persons' charity based in Lanarkshire, Scotland.

We work with young people across Lanarkshire to promote messages of harm reduction on topics such as; drugs, alcohol, cannabis, tobacco and sexual health. We do this by delivering topic-based workshops to groups of young people. Some of these sessions are volunteer-led.

We also design educational resources you can use to teach young people about these topics.


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Photo credits:

www.twitter.com/NHPNorthernComm/status/1193194518067068928/photo/1

https://www.detoxplusuk.com/ecstasy-addiction-rehab/

http://clipart-library.com/jail-cartoon.html


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