Most controlled drugs are legislated by the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. This act is intended to prevent the abuse of drugs and list all the substances that are considered too dangerous for general use.
The Home Secretary has the power to reclassify drugs if it is seemed necessary. The act divides substances three classes; A, B or C, depending on the severity of the risks.
Some controlled drugs have genuine medical uses and can be prescribed by doctors in certain circumstances. Examples of this include prescription painkillers. Some drugs also have non-medical uses and can be used under licence, such as hemp.
The Misuse of Drugs Act also defines the penalties that can be incurred by those who possess or supply controlled substances. The penalty can vary depending on the nature of the offence and the class of drug that is involved. The maximum penalties are severe, but the majority of those caught in possession do not receive. The maximum penalties under the Misuse of Drugs Act are:
|7 years + unlimited fine
|Life Imprisonment + unlimited fine
|5 years + unlimited fine
|14 years + unlimited fine
|2 years + unlimited fine
|14 years + unlimited fine
Supply, intent to supply and allowing others to supply drugs on your premises are all classed as supplying drugs and can potentially carry the same sentence. Drug classifications can also change as mor research becomes available on them.
Alcohol and the Law
Whilst alcohol is not covered by the Misuse of Drugs Act, there are restrictions on buying, selling and drinking it. Many of the laws regarding alcohol govern those under the age of 18 years old under the Licensing Act 2003. Currently, it is illegal to:
- Sell alcohol to under 18s
- To buy alcohol for the purposes of supplying to under 18s
- For under 18s to attempt to buy alcohol
- For under 18s to drink alcohol in a licensed premises (unless over the age of 16 and accompanied by an adult during a table meal)
Selling alcohol to children can result in a fine of up to £5000, with fines increasing for persistent selling.
Whilst it is legal for those over 18 to buy and possess alcohol, there are restrictions on which locations it is legal to drink it. Towns have the power to put Designated Public Place Orders (DPPO) in place to allow police to stop people drinking in public. This is common in some town centres and parks. Public transport organisations also have the power to ban the consumption of alcohol on their routes, which is enforced by Transport for London on buses and trains.
Whilst it is well documented that drink driving is against the law, many people do not know the law regarding drug driving. There are strict laws in the UK to prevent drink AND drug driving, which come under the Road Traffic Act. The punishments for drink and drug driving include:
- Causing death by driving under the influence of drink or drugs – Between 1-14 years imprisonment + unlimited fine
- Attempting to drive under the influence of drink or drugs – Upto 6 months imprisonment + £5000 fine
- In charge of a vehicle whilst under the influence of drink or drugs – Upto 3 months imprisonment + £2500 fine
- Failure to provide evidential specimen (eg, breathaliser test) – Upto 6 months imprisonment + £5000 fine
The alcohol limit for driving in the UK is 80mg per 100 ml of blood. However, knowing the physical quantity of drink this involves is not straightforward and is dependent on a number of factors; including weight, gender and whether or not you have eaten. Some people may try and drink up to just below the limit before driving, but this is a dangerous tactic. If you are in a situation where you know that you may be drinking, it is much safer to leave the car at home.