List of Controlled Drugs.
The sentences quoted in this table are maximums only and are not reflective of sentences given in the majority of drug offences, for more guidance on this issue please go to our section on sentencing. Please note that not all controlled substances are listed in this table – a comprehensive list is available from the Home Office. Trafficking offences refer to all supply offences including conspiracy or attempt to supply; production offences and offences involving importation and exportation. Consult Release or a solicitor for information on substances not covered in the table.
Amphetamines (including dexamphetamine)
Amphetamines are class B, schedule 2 drugs. It is illegal to possess them without a prescription or to supply or produce them without a licence. If prepared for injection they become class A substances.
Possession of class B drugs carries a maximum sentence of 5 years’ imprisonment and a fine. Trafficking offences carry maximum sentences of 14 years’ imprisonment and a fine.
Possession of class A drugs carries a maximum sentence of 7 years’ imprisonment and/a fine. Trafficking offences carry a maximum sentence of life imprisonment and a fine.
Anabolic steroids.
Anabolic steroids are class C, schedule 4(ii) drugs. Possession is lawful as long as the drug is for personal use. Anabolic steroids can also be imported or exported for personal use where a person physically carries out that importation or exportation.
Unauthorised supply or production is an offence and carries a maximum of 14 years’ imprisonment and a fine.
Benzodiazepines (including diazepam, flunitrazepam and temazepam)
Benzodiazepines are class C drugs. Some benzodiazepines belong to schedule 3 and some belong to schedule 4(1). Possession without a prescription, or supply or production without a licence, is illegal.
Possession carries a maximum sentence of 2 years’ imprisonment and a fine. Supply or production carries a maximum sentence of 14 years’ imprisonment and a fine.
Buprenorphine (including Subutex)
Buprenorphine is a class C, schedule 3 drug. Possession is illegal without prescription and carries a maximum sentence of 2 years’ imprisonment and a fine.
Illegal supply or production carries a maximum sentence of 14 years’ imprisonment and a fine.
BZP (and other piperazines)
Piperazines (including BZP and TFMPP) are Class C, Schedule 1 drugs. It is illegal to possess, supply or prescribe them.
Possession of Class C drugs carries a maximum sentence of 2 years’ imprisonment and a fine. Possession with intent to supply, trafficking offences and production of Class C drugs carry a maximum sentence of 14 years imprisonment and a fine.
Cannabis is a class B, schedule 1 drug. It is illegal to possess, supply or produce this drug. Special police guidelines exist in relation to arrest for possession of cannabis. (Cannabis was reclassified to a Class B drug in January 2009.)
Possession carries a maximum sentence of 5 years’ imprisonment and a fine. Trafficking offences carry a maximum sentence of 14 years’ imprisonment and a fine.
Policing Cannabis – guidelines on arrest.
New guidelines were issued by the Association of Chief Police Officers (‘ACPO’) in response to the reclassification of cannabis to a Class B drug (published 28 January 2009). The guidelines advise police officers to take an ‘escalating’ approach to the policing of cannabis possession. It outlines three possible responses for officers to take where they believe they have found an individual in possession of cannabis for personal use:
Cannabis Warnings: A person found in possession of cannabis for the first time can receive a cannabis warning if there are no aggravating factors (please see below). Where a police officer decides to proceed with a cannabis warning the individual should be warned that:
a record of the investigation will be made at the police station; the offence of possession will be recorded against them, for statistical purposes, as a detected crime; this procedure does not constitute a criminal record.
Penalty Notice for Disorder (PND): Where someone has already received a cannabis warning and is again caught in possession, then the police have the discretion to issue an on the spot fine (‘PND’) for £80.00. If the PND is paid within 21 days no further action will be taken and no criminal record will exist. A PND can be challenged, and if challenged will result in criminal proceedings at the Magistrates Court. Failure to pay will result in a fine for the original penalty plus 50% (£120) being registered against the defendant at their local Magistrates’ Court. A person has a right to refuse a PND but this will probably result in arrest.
Arrest: An individual who has received a cannabis warning and a PND and is caught again for cannabis possession should be arrested and taken to the police station. At this point, and depending on the circumstances, either the matter will be dealt with by way of charge, caution or no further action (including the possibility of issuing a further cannabis warning or a PND).
If a person is caught in possession of cannabis and there is one or more aggravating condition present then they may be arrested. The following are considered to be aggravating conditions:
smoking in a public place; where there is a locally identified policing problem; if the person is aged 17 or under; someone considered to be vulnerable; if the individual is a repeat or persistent offender.
If caught in possession of a small amount of cannabis for personal use AND you have never received either a cannabis warning or a PND and where none of the aggravating conditions are present AND the police deal with the matter either by issuing a caution or charging, legal advice should be sought by contacting Release.
The above guidelines apply to adults only. Those aged 17 or under will be dealt with under the Final Warning Scheme i.e. they will receive either a reprimand or a warning or they may face prosecution. The guidelines do state that arrest is not necessary in all cases involving young people and where possible they should be taken home to their parents/ guardians – where this occurs action can be taken at a later date.
Cocaine (including crack cocaine)
Cocaine is a class A, schedule 2 drug. Possession without a prescription is illegal. It is illegal to supply or produce cocaine.
Possession carries a maximum sentence of 7 years’ imprisonment and a fine. Supply or production carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment and a fine.
Codeine is a class B, schedule 2 drug. If prepared for injection it becomes a class A substance. It is illegal to possess without prescription or to supply or produce without a licence.
Illegal possession carries a maximum sentence of 5 years’ imprisonment and a fine. Trafficking offences carry a maximum sentence of 14 years’ imprisonment and a fine.
Possession of class A drugs carries a maximum sentence of 7 years’ imprisonment and/a fine. Trafficking offences carry a maximum sentence of life imprisonment and a fine.
DMT (N,N-dimethyltryptamine) is a Class A, Schedule 1 drug. It is illegal to possess, supply or prescribe.
Possession of Class A drugs carries a maximum sentence of 7 years’ imprisonment and a fine. Possession with intent to supply, trafficking offences and production of Class A drugs carry a maximum sentence of life imprisonment and a fine.
Ecstasy is a class A, schedule 1 drug. Possession, supply and production offences are illegal.
Possession carries a maximum sentence of 7 years’ imprisonment and/a fine. Trafficking offences carry a maximum sentence of life imprisonment and a fine.
GHB is a class C, schedule 4(1) drug. It is illegal to possess, supply or produce this drug.
Possession carries a maximum sentence of 2 years’ imprisonment and a fine. Trafficking offences carry a maximum sentence of 14 years’ imprisonment and a fine.
Hallucinogenic mushrooms containing psilocin.
Any fungus which contains psilocin is a class A, schedule 1 drug.
Possession carries a maximum of 7 years imprisonment and/or fine. Supply of mushrooms carries a maximum of life imprisonment and/or fine.
No offence is committed if the fungus is growing naturally without being cultivated, and if it has not been picked.
Heroin (diamorphine)
Heroin is a class A, schedule 2 drug. It is illegal to possess without a prescription, or to supply or produce without a licence.
Possession carries a maximum sentence of 7 years’ imprisonment and a fine. Trafficking offences carry a maximum sentence of life imprisonment and a fine.
Khat is a class C, schedule 1 drug. It is illegal to possess, supply or produce this drug.
Possession carries a maximum sentence of 2 years’ imprisonment and a fine. Trafficking offences carry a maximum sentence of 14 years’ imprisonment and a fine.
Police officers will take a special ‘escalating’ approach to the policing of khat possession. There are three possible responses for officers to take where they believe they have found an individual in possession of khat for personal use:
A person found in possession of khat for the first time can receive a khat warning. Where a police officer decides to proceed with a khat warning the individual should be warned that:
a record of the investigation will be made at the police station; the offence of possession will be recorded against them, for statistical purposes, as a detected crime; this procedure does not constitute a criminal record.
Penalty Notice for Disorder (PND)
Where someone has already received a khat warning and is again caught in possession, then the police have the discretion to issue an on the spot fine (‘PND’) for £60.00. If the PND is paid within 21 days no further action will be taken and no criminal record will exist. A PND can be challenged, and if challenged will result in criminal proceedings at the Magistrates Court. Failure to pay will result in a fine for the original penalty plus 50% (£90) being registered against the defendant at their local Magistrates’ Court. A person has a right to refuse a PND but this will probably result in arrest.
An individual who has received a khat warning and a PND and is caught again for khat possession should be arrested and taken to the police station. At this point, and depending on the circumstances, either the matter will be dealt with by way of charge, caution or no further action (including the possibility of issuing a further cannabis warning or a PND).
Ketamine is a class B, schedule 4(1) drug. It is illegal to possess, supply or produce this drug.
Possession carries a maximum sentence of 5 years’ imprisonment and/or fine. Trafficking offences carry a maximum sentence of 14 years’ imprisonment and a fine.
LSD is a class A, schedule 1 drug. Possession, supply and production of LSD are offences.
Possession carries a maximum sentence of 7 years’ imprisonment and a fine. Trafficking offences carry a maximum sentence of life imprisonment and a fine.
Mephedrone.
Mephedrone is a class B drug. It is illegal to possess, supply or produce this drug.
Possession of the drug could result in up to 5 years’ imprisonment and a fine, supply offences in up to 14 years’ imprisonment and a fine.
Methadone is a class A, schedule 2 drug. It is illegal to possess without a prescription, or to supply or produce without a licence.
Possession carries a maximum sentence of 7 years’ imprisonment and a fine. Trafficking offences carry a maximum sentence of life imprisonment and a fine.
Methoxetamine.
Methoxetamine is a Class B, Schedule 1 drug. It is illegal to possess, supply or produce.
Possession of Class B drugs carry a maximum sentence of 5 years’ imprisonment and a fine. Possession with intent to supply, trafficking offences and production of Class B drugs carry a maximum sentence of 14 year’s imprisonment and a fine.
Methylamphetamine.
This is a class A, schedule 2 drug. It is an offence to possess, supply or produce.
Possession carries a maximum sentence of 7 years’ imprisonment and/or fine. Trafficking offences carry a maximum sentence of life imprisonment and a fine.
Methylone is a class B drug. It is illegal to possess, supply or produce this drug.
Possession of the drug could result in up to 5 years’ imprisonment, supply offences in up to 14 years’ imprisonment.
Morphine is a class A, schedule 2 drug. It is illegal to possess without a prescription, or to supply or produce without a licence.
Possession carries a maximum sentence of 7 years’ imprisonment and a fine. Trafficking offences carry a maximum sentence of life imprisonment and a fine.
NRG-1, NRG-3, Naphyrone.
Naphyrone (and the related drugs NRG-1 and NRG-3) is a Class B, Schedule 1 drug. It is illegal to possess, supply or produce.
Possession of Class B drugs carry a maximum sentence of 5 years’ imprisonment and a fine. Possession with intent to supply, trafficking offences and production of Class B drugs carry a maximum sentence of 14 year’s imprisonment and a fine.
Novel Psychoactive Substances (Legal Highs)
This is a class A drug. In its raw form it is a schedule 1 drug but in a medicinal form it is schedule 2. It is an offence to possess, supply or produce.
Possession carries a maximum sentence of 7 years’ imprisonment and/a fine. Trafficking offences carry a maximum sentence of life imprisonment and a fine.
Para-methoxyamphetamine (PMA) and para-methoxymethamphetamine (PMMA) are Class A, Schedule 1 drugs. They are illegal to possess, supply or produce.
Possession of Class A drugs carries a maximum sentence of 7 years’ imprisonment and a fine. Possession with intent to supply, trafficking offences and production of Class A drugs carry a maximum sentence of life imprisonment and a fine.
Subutex is a Class C, Schedule 3 drug. It is illegal to possess, supply or produce it.
Possession of Class C drugs carries a maximum sentence of 2 years’ imprisonment and a fine. Possession with intent to supply, trafficking offences and production of Class C drugs carry a maximum sentence of 14 years imprisonment and a fine.
Solvents & gases.
Please see our guide on the Psychoactive Substances Act 2016 which is now the legislation that deals with solvents and gases.
Synthetic Cannabinoids (including Spice and K2)
The law around synthetic cannabinoids is complicated. Some substances belonging to this group are controlled as Class B Schedule 1 substances and as such it is illegal to possess, supply or produce.
Possession of Class B drugs carry a maximum sentence of 5 years’ imprisonment and a fine. Possession with intent to supply, trafficking offences and production of Class B drugs carry a maximum sentence of 14 year’s imprisonment and a fine.
Not all synthetic cannabinoids are controlled under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. Producers of this group of drugs have altered the chemical structure so that newer products on the market fall out of the scope of the legislation. In order to address this situation the UK Government passed the Psychoactive Substances Act 2016. This new legislation, which came into force on 26 May 2016, creates the following offences in relation to new psychoactive substances: importation including for personal use; exportation; supply; and production. The maximum sentence for these activities is seven years in prison. Possession is not an offence under the legislation but possession in a custodial setting, e.g. prison, is an offence attracting a maximum of two years imprisonment. Please see our guide on the Psychoactive Substances Act 2016 for a more detailed analysis of the law.
2C-B (& other 2C-type drugs)
2C drugs (including 2C-B) are Class A, Schedule 1 drugs. They are illegal to possess, supply and produce.
Possession of Class A drugs carries a maximum sentence of 7 years’ imprisonment and a fine. Possession with intent to supply, trafficking offences and production of Class A drugs carry a maximum sentence of life imprisonment and a fine.
5-MeO Group.
5-MeO-DMT (not to be confused with DMT) is a Class A, Schedule 1 drug. It is illegal to possess, supply and produce.
Possession of Class A drugs carries a maximum sentence of 7 years’ imprisonment and a fine. Possession with intent to supply, trafficking offences and production of Class A drugs carry a maximum sentence of life imprisonment and a fine.
The remaining drugs that fall within the 5-MeO group are not controlled under the Misuse of Drugs ACT 1971. They fall within the category of ‘new psychoactive substances’ (‘NPS’). In order to address the issue of NPS the UK Government passed the Psychoactive Substances Act 2016. This new legislation, which came into force on 26 May 2016, creates the following offences in relation to NPS: importation including for personal use; exportation; supply; and production. The maximum sentence for these activities is seven years in prison. Possession is not an offence under the legislation but possession in a custodial setting, e.g. prison, is an offence attracting a maximum of two years imprisonment. Please see our guide on the Psychoactive Substances Act 2016 for a more detailed analysis of the law.
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