Drugs and the law


Drug law in the UK is governed by the Misuse of Drugs Act. Offences under the Act include:

  • Unlawful possession
  • Unlawful possession with intent to supply
  • Using or allowing your property to be used for the purpose of supplying or producing drugs

The Misuse of Drugs Act categorises drugs (also known as controlled substances) into classes A, B and C; with Class A being the most harmful. Each class has different penalties for possession and supply.

Call us if you are being investigated for a drug offence and require criminal legal representation, and we will recommend a specialist for your situation.

Class A

The drugs in this category are the most dangerous and include:

  • Heroin
  • LSD
  • Crack cocaine

If you are caught with these substances the drugs court can give you an unlimited fine and up to seven years in prison, or both. If you are caught dealing these drugs the court can give you an unlimited fine and life imprisonment.

Class B

The drugs in this category include:

  • Methylphenidate (Ritalin)
  • Pholcodine
  • Amphetamines
  • Cannabis

Possession of these drugs will mean the drugs court can give you an unlimited fine and up to five years in prison, or both. Dealing these drugs will mean an unlimited fine and up to 14 years in prison, or both.

Class C

The drugs in this category include:

  • Some painkillers
  • Tranquilisers
  • Ketamine
  • Gamma Hydroxybutyrate (GHB)

The drugs court can give you an unlimited fine, two years in prison, or both. And if you are caught dealing these drugs the drugs court can give you an unlimited fine, up to 14 years in prison, or both.


In January 2009 cannabis was reclassified from a class C drug to a class B drug following a review carried out by the Advisory Council for the Misuse of Drugs at the request of the Prime Minister.

This means that the penalties for possession and supply of cannabis have now changed back again. However, the change was made quietly and without fanfare.

If you were caught in possession of cannabis before the reclassification, you would have faced a maximum of two years’ imprisonment. This has now increased to a maximum of five years’ imprisonment.

In addition to the possibility of a custodial sentence, individuals that are caught in possession will:

  • Receive a warning from the police for their first possession offence
  • Be issued with a Penalty Notice for Disorder (an on-the-spot fine) for their second offence
  • Be arrested and possibility of a conviction and criminal record for their third offence

Under drug law the police have special powers that allow them to stop, search and detain individuals if they have reasonable suspicion that the individual is in possession of a controlled substance. If you have been caught committing a drug offence then you may want to consider gaining some advice from a criminal solicitor to help avoid a custodial sentence.

For more advice on this topic, see our FAQ page on drug-related offences law.

Have you been arrested due to possession of illegal drugs and require criminal representation? Contact Law can put you in touch with specialist criminal lawyers who can represent your interests and try to avoid a custodial sentence for your offence. Please call us on 0800 046 1464 or complete the web-form above.

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