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marijuana laws england

Drugs penalties

You can get a fine or prison sentence if you:

  • take drugs
  • carry drugs
  • make drugs
  • sell, deal or share drugs (also called ‘supplying’ them)

The penalties depend on the type of drug or substance, the amount you have, and whether you’re also dealing or producing it.

Types of drugs

The maximum penalties for drug possession, supply (selling, dealing or sharing) and production depend on what type or ‘class’ the drug is.

Drug Possession Supply and production
Class A Crack cocaine, cocaine, ecstasy (MDMA ), heroin, LSD , magic mushrooms, methadone, methamphetamine (crystal meth) Up to 7 years in prison, an unlimited fine or both Up to life in prison, an unlimited fine or both
Class B Amphetamines, barbiturates, cannabis, codeine, ketamine, methylphenidate (Ritalin), synthetic cannabinoids, synthetic cathinones (for example mephedrone, methoxetamine) Up to 5 years in prison, an unlimited fine or both Up to 14 years in prison, an unlimited fine or both
Class C Anabolic steroids, benzodiazepines (diazepam), gamma hydroxybutyrate (GHB ), gamma-butyrolactone (GBL ), piperazines (BZP ), khat Up to 2 years in prison, an unlimited fine or both (except anabolic steroids – it’s not an offence to possess them for personal use) Up to 14 years in prison, an unlimited fine or both
Temporary class drugs* Some methylphenidate substances (ethylphenidate, 3,4-dichloromethylphenidate (3,4-DCMP), methylnaphthidate (HDMP-28), isopropylphenidate (IPP or IPPD), 4-methylmethylphenidate, ethylnaphthidate, propylphenidate) and their simple derivatives None, but police can take away a suspected temporary class drug Up to 14 years in prison, an unlimited fine or both

*The government can ban new drugs for 1 year under a ‘temporary banning order’ while they decide how the drugs should be classified.

Psychoactive substances penalties

Psychoactive substances include things like nitrous oxide (‘laughing gas’).

You can get a fine or prison sentence if you:

  • carry a psychoactive substance and you intend to supply it
  • make a psychoactive substance
  • sell, deal or share a psychoactive substance (also called supplying them)
Psychoactive substances Possession Supply and production
Things that cause hallucinations, drowsiness or changes in alertness, perception of time and space, mood or empathy with others None, unless you’re in prison Up to 7 years in prison, an unlimited fine or both

Food, alcohol, nicotine, caffeine, medicine and the types of drugs listed above do not count as psychoactive substances.

Possessing drugs

You may be charged with possessing an illegal substance if you’re caught with drugs, whether they’re yours or not.

If you’re under 18, the police are allowed to tell your parent, guardian or carer that you’ve been caught with drugs.

Your penalty will depend on:

  • the class and quantity of drug
  • where you and the drugs were found
  • your personal history (previous crimes, including any previous drug offences)
  • other aggravating or mitigating factors

Cannabis

Police can issue a warning or an on-the-spot fine of £90 if you’re found with cannabis.

Police can issue a warning or an on-the-spot fine of £60 on the first 2 times that you’re found with khat. If you’re found with khat more than twice, you could get a maximum penalty of up to 2 years in prison, an unlimited fine, or both.

Dealing or supplying drugs

The penalty is likely to be more severe if you are found to be supplying drugs (dealing, selling or sharing).

The police will probably charge you if they suspect you of supplying drugs. The amount of drugs found and whether you have a criminal record will affect your penalty.

More information

Talk to FRANK has help, information and advice about drugs.

The penalties if you are caught taking or dealing drugs – drug classification, fines and prison sentences

United Kingdom Marijuana Laws & Policy

While recreational cannabis remains illegal in the United Kingdom (UK), the island nation did recently legalize cannabis for medical purposes.

Current Legislation

In the UK, recreational cannabis is classified as a Schedule I drug under the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001 and it is illegal to possess, cultivate, distribute or sell without the appropriate licenses. The maximum penalty for possession is 5 years in prison and an unlimited fine. In cases where possession is in small amounts, a police officer may issue a warning or an on-the spot fine of £90. In the event a warning is issued, police keep record of the offense but there is no associated fine. Cultivation or possession with the intent to sell comes with a maximum penalty of up to 14 years in prison and an unlimited fine

It is legal to grow industrial hemp in the UK, but a license is required to cover both cultivation and possession.

Medical Marijuana Laws

After receiving a two-part review on the safety and efficacy of cannabis, Home Secretary Sajid Javid announced in July 2018 that medical marijuana would be available by prescription in the United Kingdom. In October 2018, Javid announced that specialized doctors — such as neurologists and pediatricians — will be able to begin prescribing cannabis-based medicines to UK patients “with an exceptional clinical need” on November 1, 2018. The country’s National Health Service will cover its cost.

The UK’s Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) and the Medicines and Health products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) will decide which cannabis-derived medicinal products will be rescheduled to Schedule 2, allowing them to be prescribed by a doctor.

Separately, since April 2013, cannabis (THC) drug Sativex was rescheduled from a Schedule 1 Class B drug to Schedule IV controlled substance, which allows it to be prescribed by a general practitioner. The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency has authorized Sativex to assist in the treatment of spasticity caused by multiple sclerosis. Doctors can prescribe it to assist in the treatment of other conditions, but at their own risk.

Recreational and medical cannabis is illegal in the United Kingdom (UK).