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The Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 - EXPLAINED

Updated: Apr 26, 2021

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 The general opinion is that this Act is out of date, and that it doesn’t discourage people from using drugs, it criminalises vulnerable drug users and discourages them from getting help for their addictions.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?


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