Classification and penalties

The Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 categorises drugs under 3 classes; A, B and C. It is an offence to:

  • possess a controlled substance unlawfully
  • possess a controlled substance with intent to supply it
  • supply or offer to supply a controlled drug (even if it is given away for free)
  • allow a house, flat or office to be used by people taking drugs

Penalties for possession and dealing

Class Drug type Possession Dealing
Class A Ecstasy, LSD, heroin, cocaine, crack, magic mushrooms, amphetamines (if prepared for injection). Up to seven years in prison or an unlimited fine or both. Up to life in prison or an unlimited fine or both.
Class B Amphetamines, Cannabis, Methylphenidate (Ritalin), Pholcodine. Up to five years in prison or an unlimited fine or both. Up to 14 years in prison or an unlimited fine or both.
Class C Tranquilisers, some painkillers, Gamma hydroxybutyrate (GHB), Ketamine. Up to two years in prison or an unlimited fine or both. Up to 14 years in prison or an unlimited fine or both.

Newly banned substances

Since December 2009 the government reclassified and in turn banned several “legal highs” including the much publicised Mephedrone or “Meow-Meow”.

  • 'Legal highs' now banned under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 include:
  • Mephedrone and related cathinones are now classified as Class B
  • Chemical solvent GBL (Gamma-Butyrolactone) and a similar chemical - now controlled as Class C drugs when intended for human consumption
  • Synthetic cannabinoids – man-made chemicals sprayed on herbal smoking products such as ‘Spice’ – now controlled as Class B drugs alongside cannabis
  • BZP (Benzylpiperazine) and related piperazines - now controlled as Class C drugs
  • 15 anabolic steroids are to be controlled as Class C