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Drug offences

Drug misuse harms the health and wellbeing of too many people. There are a number of different criminal offences which restrict the supply and use of harmful substances.

It is illegal to possess, supply and produce controlled drugs. It is also illegal to import or export drugs, or to allow your premises to be used for drug production. 

Controlled drugs fall into three different categories, Class A, B or C, according to their danger or how harmful they are. The sentences for drug offences are different for each class of drugs. Class A drugs are the most harmful, and will lead to a greater sentence.

The Home Secretary can make a substance or product a temporary class drug using a Temporary Class Drug Order. Offences relating to temporary class drugs will have punishment levels similar to Class B drugs. 

Carrying controlled drugs is illegal and you can be charged even if you did not know what you had was a controlled drug or if the drugs are yours or not.

Not all of these offences are brought to the CPS - if you are found in possession of cannabis or khat, the police may deal with this in the form of a warning or on the spot fine for your first offences.

An offence has been committed if you have sold or are found sharing drugs with others, even if they did not pay you for them.

If you are in possession of controlled drugs, and either there is evidence that you were intending to supply those drugs, or you have more drugs than is consistent with personal use, an offence of possession with intent to supply could be committed.

Importing or exporting drugs is illegal. Any person who possesses restricted drugs with intent to import or export drugs is committing a criminal offence. 

If you are involved in the production of a controlled drug, can be linked to the production process, for example providing premises or equipment, and can be proved to have known a controlled drug was being produced, you can be charged with production of drugs.

Growing cannabis plants amounts to “producing” cannabis, even if this is for your own personal use.

When these drugs are prepared and ready for onward distribution, you may also be charged with possession with intent to supply. This may depend on the quantity and location of the drugs as well as the steps taken to make it ready for onward supply. 

This Act came into force on 26th May 2016 and bans all psychoactive substances (“legal highs”). It makes it an offence to produce, supply, offer to supply, possess with intent to supply, import and export psychoactive substances, and to possess a psychoactive substance in a custodial institution.

Policy, reports and publications

Relevant legislation

  • Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 including possession and supply offences, production of controlled drugs, allowing  premises to be used for smoking cannabis, offences related to opium
  • Psychoactive Substances Act 2016 on production and supply of psychoactive substances, importation and possession in prisons and other custodial institutions

Further reading

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