Laws on research chemicals in the UK
The United Kingdom is widely regarded as having some of the most focussed and robust legislation covering research chemical legality. Under UK analogue law, there is no need to demonstrate intent for human consumption. Instead specific chemical derivatives of controlled substances are explicitly identified in highly detailed analogue laws. This effectively makes whole families of existing and conceivable research chemicals controlled. These laws are dynamic and frequently amended to prohibit novel structural families of research chemical.
Since the U.K. system relies on explicitly identifying chemical modifications which are considered to be analogues, novel chemicals can be designed to circumvent the existing laws, if only for a short period of time. An example of this is the beta-ketone family of research chemicals. Despite being analogues of both cathinone and methcathinone (both class C controlled substances) there is currently no law stating that substituted methcathinone derivatives are considered to be analogues. Additionally there is no clause indicating that beta-keto modifications of substituted amphetamines are controlled. For this reason mephedrone and methylone remain technically legal to possess, despite their apparent structural similarity to cathinones, methamphetamine, and in the case of methylone, to MDMA.
Research Chemical families specifically controlled under U.K. law:
- 2C-x (substituted phenethylamines) – class A, last refined in Misuse of Phenethylamines Act 2002
- DOx (substituted amphetamines) – class A, last refined in Misuse of Phenethylamines Act 2002
- JWH-x (synthetic cannabinoids) – class B, amendment to the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, effective from 23rd December 2009
Piperazine derivatives – class C, amendment to the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, effective from 23rd December 2009. Piperazine itself is also controlled under the Medicines Act.
The Misuse of Drugs Act 1971
The laws controlling drug use are complicated. The Misuse of Drugs Act (MDA) regulates what are termed controlled drugs. It divides drugs into three classes as follows:
These include, cocaine and crack (a form of cocaine), ecstasy, heroin, LSD, methadone, methamphetamine (crystal meth), magic mushrooms containing ester of psilocin and any Class B drug which is injected.
These include amphetamine (not methamphetamine), barbiturates, codeine and cannabis.
These include anabolic steroids and minor tranquillisers.
Class A drugs are treated by the law as the most dangerous. Offences under the Misuse of Drugs Act can include:
* Possession of a controlled drug.
* Possession with intent to supply another person.
* Production, cultivation or manufacture of controlled drugs.
* Supplying another person with a controlled drug.
* Offering to supply another person with a controlled drug.
* Import or export of controlled drugs.
The law is even more complicated by the fact that some drugs are covered by other laws, are not covered at all or treated in an exceptional way under the Misuse of Drugs Act.
Maximum penalties under the Misuse of Drugs Act are as follows:
|Class A||7 years + fine||Life + fine|
|Class B||5 years + fine||14 years + fine|
|Class C||2 years + fine||14 years + fine|
What happens to people who commit drug offences varies in different parts of the UK? Police forces in some areas are more likely to caution than in other areas. Some local police forces are more likely than others to charge people and take them to court. What happens in courts also varies. Some courts are more likely to give out custodial sentences or large fines than others.
UPDATE 24-1-12 - new sentencing guidleines come into force on 27-1-12 regardless of when you were first arrested.
Not illegal for an over 5 year old to consume away from licensed premises. It is an offence for a vendor to knowingly sell to an under 18 year old. A 14 year old can go into a pub alone but not consume alcohol. A 16 year old can buy and consume beer, port, cider or perry (but not spirits) in a pub if having a meal in an area set aside for this purpose. In some areas there are by laws restricting drinking of alcohol on the streets at any age. Police also have powers to confiscate alcohol from under 18s who drink in public places.
A colourless, odourless liquid which comes in a small bottle and has sedative and euphoric effects. It is controlled under the Misuse of Drugs Act so possession is an offence.
Usually comes as a powder. The initial rush is usually followed by feelings of dissociation and an anaesthetic type experience. It is commonly used as an animal tranquilliser and for surgery on animals. As of January 1st 2006 Ketamine is a class C Drug under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971.
A plant that is grown in eastern Africa and the Arabian peninsula. Chewing the leaves has a stimulant effect. Some Khat is imported to the UK and sold in greengrocers, specialist health food shops and some ‘head’ shops. The Khat plant (the main form in which khat is sold) is not covered under the Misuse of Drugs Act and possession or supply is not an offence.
Now a Class A drug under the Drugs Act 2005. " fungus (of any kind) which contains psilocin or an ester of psilocin". This does not include Fly Agaric which is still legal.
Poppers (liquid gold, amyl or butyl nitrite)
Are not covered by the MDA and are not illegal to possess or buy. They are often sold in joke and sex shops but also in some pubs, clubs, tobacconists and sometimes music or clothes shops used by young people. Though not fully tested in court, the Medicines Control Agency has stated that poppers is regarded by them as a medicine and so falls under the Medicines Act 1968. This allows only licensed outlets, such as chemists, to sell the drug.
Solvents (aerosols, gases, glues etc.)
Not illegal to possess, use or buy at any age. In England and Wales it is an offence for a shopkeeper to sell them to an under 18 year old if they know they are to be used for intoxicating purposes. The Government has extended this legislation to make it illegal for shopkeepers to sell lighter fuel (butane) to under 18s whether or not they know it will be used for intoxicating purposes. This law came into force on 1st Oct 1999, although it was not an ‘extension’ to the Intoxicating Substances Supply Act, but an amendment to the Consumer Protection Act
Controlled under the Misuse of Drugs Act as class C drugs but their legal status is complicated. In most situations the possession offence is waived meaning that people who possess or use steroids without a prescription are unlikely to be prosecuted. However, in some areas of the UK police have successfully prosecuted people for possession of steroids when the steroids have not been in the form of a medicinal product. It is always an offence to sell or supply steroids to another person. People can also be prosecuted for possession with intent to supply if they have large quantities of steroids without a prescription for them.
It is not an offence for people of any age to use cigarettes or other tobacco products. It is an offence for a vendor to sell tobacco products to someone they know to be under 18 years old. Since 1st July 2007 smoking in public places has been banned in the UK.
Minor Tranquillisers (librium, valium etc)
Controlled under the Misuse of Drugs Act as Class C drugs but the possession offence is waived so that it is not illegal to possess or use them without a prescription. It is an offence to sell or supply them to another person. The exception is temazepam and rohypnol tranquillisers which are illegal to be in possession of without a prescription.
Section 8 Amendment
* administration or use of any controlled drugs
* supply of any controlled drug
* the production or cultivation of controlled drugs, such as growing cannabis
2005 - Drugs Act
This Act came into force on 1st January 2006. It includes the following clauses:
• Compulsory drug-testing of arrestees where police have “reasonable grounds” for believing that Class A drugs were involved in the commission of an offence. Failure to comply with this testing is itself an offence and positive tests can lead to compulsory drug treatment assessment.
• The inclusion of fresh Liberty Cap or “magic” mushrooms in Class A of the Misuse of Drugs Act. Before this Bill, only dried or prepared mushrooms were considered illegal.
• The Act has also linked drug legislation with measures to deal with Anti-Social Behaviour so that anyone given an Anti Social Behaviour Order must undergo compulsory testing and drug treatment.
Customs and Excise Management Act 1979
Road Traffic Act 1972
Drug Trafficking Act 1994
Crime and Disorder Act 1998
Possessing cannabis - cannabis is now classified as a Class B drug
If caught in possession of cannabis, as well as considering arrest and confiscating the drug police are likely to:
* give you a cannabis warning for a first offence of possession
* give you a Penalty Notice for Disorder (an on-the-spot fine of £80) for a second offence
* arrest you if it is the third time you have been caught with cannabis; this could lead to conviction and a criminal record.
Aged between 10 and 17
If you're caught in possession of cannabis, the police will confiscate the drug and may arrest you or refer you to a Youth Offending Team (YOT). The police are also likely to:
* give you a reprimand and tell your parents what has happened if it is the first time you’ve been caught
* give you a final warning and refer you to a YOT if it's your second offence
* arrest you if it is the third time you have been caught with cannabis, which could lead to a conviction and a criminal record
Intent to supply and dealing
Punishments for supplying drugs are a lot tougher than those for possession. You should also remember that supplying drugs doesn't just apply to dealers. If the police think you intended to share drugs with your friends, this is still considered as supplying.
The police are more likely to charge you if they suspect you intended to supply drugs, but will still take into account the amount of drugs that you had and your criminal record.
The maximum sentences for intent to supply drugs are:
* up to life in prison or an unlimited fine (or both) for a Class A drug
* up to 14 years in prison or an unlimited fine (or both) for a Class B or Class C drug