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Tuesday, 23 October, 2001, 15:29 GMT 16:29 UK
How drugs are classified
The classification of cannabis is to change
The classification of cannabis is to change
Cannabis is to be reclassified from a Class B to a Class C drug.

BBC News Online looks at drug classification laws in the UK.


In the UK, illegal drugs are classified into three main categories.

They can be Class A, B or C, with A attracting the most serious punishments and fines.

Class A drugs include
Heroin
Cocaine
Ecstasy
LSD
Drugs are classified under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971.

Drugs such as heroin, methadone, cocaine, crack and Ecstasy, LSD and amphetamines (speed) if prepared for injection fall into Class A.

Conviction for possession, in a Crown Court, can lead to a maximum seven year prison sentence and a fine.

The maximum penalty for trafficking is life imprisonment plus a fine.

Class B

Class B drugs include amphetamines (speed), and barbiturates.

Class B drugs include
Amphetamines (non-injection)
Barbiturates

Prior to the Home Secretary's announcement on Tuesday, cannabis was also listed as a Class B drug.

The maximum penalty for possession of a Class B drug, if the case reaches Crown Court, is five years, plus a fine.

For trafficking, the sentence can be up to 14 years, plus a fine.

Downgrading

Last year, the Runciman inquiry called for cannabis to be downgraded to a Class C drug.

Class C drugs include
Mild amphetamines
Tranquillisers
Anabolic steroids

Class C, the lowest class of drugs, includes mild amphetamines (such as slimming tablets) and Anabolic Steroids.

Benzodiazepine drugs such as Valium are also categorised as Class C drugs.

Maximum sentences are two years for possession and five years for trafficking.

Under the change announced by the Home Secretary, possession of cannabis would remain a criminal offence and would still carry the maximum sentences for Class C drugs.

But if a person was stopped by the police and found to have cannabis on them, they could be given a warning, a caution or a summons to court.

Under the Misuse of Drugs Act, it is an offence:

  • to unlawfully possess a controlled drug
  • to possess a controlled drug with intent to supply it
  • to unlawfully supply (sell/give/share) a controlled drug
  • to allow premises you occupy or manage to be used for the smoking or use of drugs

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See also:

28 Mar 00 | UK
14 Sep 99 | Health
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