You may be charged with possessing an illegal substance if you’re caught with drugs, whether they’re yours or not.
The penalty is likely to be more severe if you are found to be supplying drugs (dealing, selling or sharing).
The penalties depend on the type of drug or substance, the amount you have, and whether you’re also dealing or producing it.
You can get a fine or prison sentence if you:
The maximum penalties for drug possession, supply (selling, dealing or sharing) and production depend on what type or ‘class’ the drug is.
Your penalty will depend on:
Food, alcohol, nicotine, caffeine, medicine and the types of drugs listed above do not count as psychoactive substances.
In 2018, the former Foreign Secretary and Conservative Party Leader, William Hague, called for a reform in cannabis laws, saying that “the idea that the drug can be driven off the streets and out of people’s lives by the state is nothing short of deluded”.
However within the United Kingdom, there is now something of a postcode lottery surrounding the enforcement of Cannabis laws. For example, where the overall level of cannabis prosecutions fell by 19% between 2015 and 2018, in Cheshire the number of cannabis prosecutions increased.
The Liberal Democrats, declared their support the legalisation of cannabis in March 2016. The Green Party also support the legalization of cannabis.
The debate around cannabis reform
Cannabis remains illegal to possess, distribute, sell or grow in the UK.
For those caught with a small amount of cannabis – typically less than one ounce – police can issue a warning or on-the-spot fine if the possession is deemed for personal use.
People approaching the issue from this point of view also note how in recent years, the THC content of cannabis has increased, leading to stronger and more dangerous forms of the drug being in circulation. It is argued that cannabis with high levels of THC can lead to people developing psychiatric issues. The Royal College of Psychiatrists has said that those using cannabis, particularly younger users around the age of 15, have far higher chances of developing psychotic illness, including schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.
What is the law on cannabis in the UK?
The 1971 Misuse of Drugs Act was later introduced to provide guidance on controlled drugs, and cannabis was classified as a ‘class B’ drug.
Whether cannabis should be legalised, decriminalised or reclassified are all controversial issues, as are any Government attempts to reform the law on drug use.