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MISUSE OF DRUGS ACT 1971

UK Public General Acts

Version 14/12/2016

1971 CHAPTER 38

Default Geographical Extent: E+W+S+N.I.


  • The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs
  • Controlled drugs and their classification
  • Restrictions relating to controlled drugs etc.
  • Miscellaneous offences involving controlled drugs etc.
  • Powers of Secretary of State for preventing misuse of controlled drugs
  • Miscellaneous offences and powers
  • Law enforcement and punishment of offences
  • Miscellaneous and supplementary provisions
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Introductory Text

Misuse of Drugs Act 1971

1971 CHAPTER 38

An Act to make new provision with respect to dangerous or otherwise harmful drugs and related matters, and for purposes connected therewith.

[27th May 1971]

Annotations:

Modifications etc. (not altering text)

C1 Act applied (1.10.1996) by 1955 c. 18, s.34A(2) (as inserted by 1996 c. 46, s. 32(1)); S.I. 1996/2474, arts.2,3

Act applied (1.10.1996) by 1955 c. 19, s.34A(2) as inserted by 1996 c. 46, s. 32(2); S.I. 1996/2474, arts.2, 3

Act applied (1.10.1996) by 1957 c. 53, s.12A as inserted by 1996 c. 46, s. 32(3); S.I. 1996/2474, arts.2, 3

Commencement Information

I1 Act not in force at Royal Assent, see s.40; Act wholly in force at 1 July 1973.


The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs


1 The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs.

(1) There shall be constituted in accordance with Schedule 1 to this Act as Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (in this Act referred to as “the Advisory Council”) ; and the supplementary provisions contained in that Schedule shall have effect in relation to the Council.

(2) It shall be the duty of the Advisory Council to keep under review the situation in the United Kingdom with respect to drugs which are being or appear to them likely to be misused and of which the misuse is having or appears to them capable of having harmful effects sufficient to constitute a social problem, and to give to any one or more of the Ministers, where either the Council consider it expedient to do so or they are consulted by the Minister or Ministers in question, advice on measures (whether or not involving alteration of the law) which in the opinion of the Council ought to be taken for preventing the misuse of such drugs or dealing with social problems connected with their misuse, and in particular on measures which in the opinion of the Council ought to be taken—

(a) for restricting the availability of such drugs or supervising the arrangements for their supply;
(b) for enabling persons affected by the misuse of such drugs to obtain proper advice, and for securing the provision of proper facilities and services for the treatment, rehabilitation and after-care of such persons;
(c) for promoting co-operation between the various professional and community services which in the opinion of the Council have a part to play in dealing with social problems connected with the misuse of such drugs;
(d) for educating the public (and in particular the young) in the dangers of misusing such drugs, and for giving publicity to those dangers; and
(e) for promoting research into, or otherwise obtaining information about, any matter which in the opinion of the Council is of relevance for the purpose of preventing the misuse of such drugs or dealing with any social problem connected with their misuse.
(3) It shall also be the duty of the Advisory Council to consider any matter relating to drug dependence or the misuse of drugs which may be referred to them by any one or more of the Ministers and to advise the Minister or Ministers in question thereon, and in particular to consider and advise the Secretary of State with respect to any communication referred by him to the Council, being a communication relating to the control of any dangerous or otherwise harmful drug made to Her Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom by any organisation or authority established by or under any treaty, convention or other agreement or arrangement to which that Government is for the time being a party.

(4) In this section “the Ministers” means the Secretary of State for the Home Department, the Secretaries of State respectively concerned with health in England, Wales and Scotland, the Secretaries of State respectively concerned with education in England, Wales and Scotland, the Minister of Home Affairs for Northern Ireland, the Minister of Health and Social Services for Northern Ireland and the Minister of Education for Northern Ireland.

Annotations:

Modifications etc. (not altering text)

C2 S. 1: Powers transferred (W.) (1.7.1999) by virtue of S.I. 1999/672, art. 2, Sch. 1

C3 References to Ministers of Northern Ireland to be construed as references to heads of departments bearing names of respective Ministries immediately before 1.1.1974 Northern Ireland Constitution Act 1973 (c. 36), Sch. 5 para. 7(1)


Controlled drugs and their classification


2 Controlled drugs and their classification for purposes of this Act.

(1) In this Act—

(a) the expression “controlled drug” means any substance or product for the time being specified[F1
(i) in Part I, II or III of Schedule 2, or
(ii) in a temporary class drug order as a drug subject to temporary control (but this is subject to section 2A(6) ) ;]
(b) the expressions “Class A drug”, “Class B drug” and “Class C drug” mean any of the substances and products for the time being specified respectively in Part I, Part II and Part III of that Schedule[F2 , and
(c) the expression “temporary class drug” means any substance or product which is for the time being a controlled drug by virtue of a temporary class drug order;]
and the provisions of Part IV of that Schedule shall have effect with respect to the meanings of expressions used in that Schedule.
(2) Her Majesty may by Order in Council make such amendments in Schedule 2 to this Act as may be requisite for the purpose of adding any substance or product to, or removing any substance or product from, any of Parts I to III of that Schedule, including amendments for securing that no substance or product is for the time being specified in a particular one of those Parts or for inserting any substance or product into any of those Parts in which no substance or product is for the time being specified.

(3) An Order in Council under this section may amend Part IV of Schedule 2 to this Act, and may do so whether or not it amends any other Part of this Schedule.

(4) An Order in Council under this section may be varied or revoked by a subsequent Order in Council thereunder.

(5) No recommendation shall be made to Her Majesty in Council to make an Order under this section unless a draft of the Order has been laid before Parliament and approved by a resolution of each House of Parliament; and the Secretary of State shall not lay a draft of such an Order before Parliament except after consultation with or on the recommendation of the Advisory Council.

Annotations:

Amendments (Textual)

F1 Words in s. 2(1)(a) substituted (15.11.2011) by Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011 (c. 13), s. 157(1), Sch. 17 para. 2(a); S.I. 2011/2515, art. 3(g)

F2 S. 2(1)(c) and preceding word inserted (15.11.2011) by Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011 (c. 13), s. 157(1), Sch. 17 para. 2(b); S.I. 2011/2515, art. 3(g)


[F3 2A Temporary class drug orders

(1) The Secretary of State may make an order (referred to in this Act as a “temporary class drug order”) specifying any substance or product as a drug subject to temporary control if the following two conditions are met.

(2) The first condition is that the substance or product is not a Class A drug, a Class B drug or a Class C drug.

(3) The second condition is that—

(a) the Secretary of State has consulted in accordance with section 2B and has determined that the order should be made, or
(b) the Secretary of State has received a recommendation under that section that the order should be made.
(4) The Secretary of State may make the determination mentioned in subsection (3) (a) only if it appears to the Secretary of State that—

(a) the substance or product is a drug that is being, or is likely to be, misused, and
(b) that misuse is having, or is capable of having, harmful effects.
(5) A substance or product may be specified in a temporary class drug order by reference to—

(a) the name of the substance or product, or
(b) a description of the substance or product (which may take such form as the Secretary of State thinks appropriate for the purposes of the specification).
(6) A substance or product specified in a temporary class drug order as a drug subject to temporary control ceases to be a controlled drug by virtue of the order—

(a) at the end of one year beginning with the day on which the order comes into force, or
(b) if earlier, upon the coming into force of an Order in Council under section 2(2) by virtue of which the substance or product is specified in Part 1, 2 or 3 of Schedule 2.
(7) Subsection (6) —

(a) is subject to subsection (10) , and
(b) is without prejudice to the power of the Secretary of State to vary or revoke a temporary class drug order by a further order.
(8) The power of the Secretary of State to make an order under this section is subject to section 2B.

(9) An order under this section is to be made by statutory instrument.

(10) An order under this section—

(a) must be laid before Parliament after being made, and
(b) ceases to have effect at the end of the period of 40 days beginning with the day on which the order is made unless before the end of that period the order is approved by a resolution of each House of Parliament.
(11) In calculating that period of 40 days no account is to be taken of any time during which Parliament is dissolved or prorogued or during which both Houses are adjourned for more than 4 days.

(12) Subsection (10) (b) —

(a) is without prejudice to anything previously done or to the power of the Secretary of State to make a new order under this section;
(b) does not apply to an order that only revokes a previous order under this section.
Annotations:

Amendments (Textual)

F3 Ss. 2A, 2B inserted (15.11.2011) by Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011 (c. 13), s. 157(1), Sch. 17 para. 3; S.I. 2011/2515, art. 3(g)


2B Orders under section 2A: role of Advisory Council etc

(1) Before making an order under section 2A the Secretary of State—

(a) must consult as mentioned in subsection (2) , or
(b) must have received a recommendation from the Advisory Council to make the order.
(2) The Secretary of State must consult—

(a) the Advisory Council, or
(b) if the order is to be made under section 2A(1) and the urgency condition applies, the person mentioned in subsection (3).
(3) The person referred to in subsection (2) (b) is—

(a) the person who is for the time being the chairman of the Advisory Council appointed under paragraph 1(3) of Schedule 1, or
(b) if that person has delegated the function of responding to consultation under subsection (1) (a) to another member of the Advisory Council, that other member.
(4) The “urgency condition” applies if it appears to the Secretary of State that the misuse of the substance or product to be specified in the order as a drug subject to temporary control, or the likelihood of its misuse, poses an urgent and significant threat to public safety or health.

(5) The duty of the Advisory Council or any other person consulted under subsection (1) (a) is limited to giving to the Secretary of State that person's opinion as to whether the order in question should be made.

(6) A recommendation under subsection (1) (b) that a temporary class drug order should be made may be given by the Advisory Council only if it appears to the Council that—

(a) the substance or product is a drug that is being, or is likely to be, misused, and
(b) that misuse is having, or is capable of having, harmful effects.]
Annotations:

Amendments (Textual)

F3 Ss. 2A, 2B inserted (15.11.2011) by Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011 (c. 13), s. 157(1), Sch. 17 para. 3; S.I. 2011/2515, art. 3(g)


Restrictions relating to controlled drugs etc.


3 Restriction of importation and exportation of controlled drugs.

(1) Subject to subsection (2) below—

(a) the importation of a controlled drug; and
(b) the exportation of a controlled drug,
are hereby prohibited.
(2) Subsection (1) above does not apply—

(a) to the importation or exportation of a controlled drug which is for the time being excepted from paragraph (a) or, as the case may be, paragraph (b) of subsection (1) above by regulations under section 7 of this Act [F4 or by provision made in a temporary class drug order by virtue of section 7A] ; or
(b) to the importation or exportation of a controlled drug under and in accordance with the terms of a licence issued by the Secretary of State and in compliance with any conditions attached thereto.
Annotations:

Amendments (Textual)

F4 Words in s. 3(2)(a) inserted (15.11.2011) by Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011 (c. 13), s. 157(1), Sch. 17 para. 4; S.I. 2011/2515, art. 3(g)


4 Restriction of production and supply of controlled drugs.

(1) Subject to any regulations under section 7 of this Act [F5 , or any provision made in a temporary class drug order by virtue of section 7A, ] for the time being in force, it shall not be lawful for a person—

(a) to produce a controlled drug; or
(b) to supply or offer to supply a controlled drug to another.
(2) Subject to section 28 of this Act, it is an offence for a person—

(a) to produce a controlled drug in contravention of subsection (1) above; or
(b) to be concerned in the production of such a drug in contravention of that subsection by another.
(3) Subject to section 28 of this Act, it is an offence for a person—

(a) to supply or offer to supply a controlled drug to another in contravention of subsection (1) above; or
(b) to be concerned in the supplying of such a drug to another in contravention of that subsection; or
(c) to be concerned in the making to another in contravention of that subsection of an offer to supply such a drug.
Annotations:

Amendments (Textual)

F5 Words in s. 4(1) inserted (15.11.2011) by Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011 (c. 13), s. 157(1), Sch. 17 para. 5; S.I. 2011/2515, art. 3(g)

Modifications etc. (not altering text)

C4 S. 4(1)(a) excluded (1.2.2002) by S.I. 2001/3998, regs. 4, 8(1), 9(1) (with reg. 2(3))

C5 S. 4(1)(b) excluded (1.2.2002) by S.I. 2001/3998, regs. 6, 8(2)-(6), 9(2)-(6), 11(1)(2) (with reg. 2(3))

C6 S. 4(1)(b) excluded by S.I. 2001/3998, reg. 8(7)(8) (as inserted (15.10.2003) by Misuse of Drugs (Amendment) (No.3) Regulations 2003 (S.I. 2003/2429), regs. 1, 2(5))

C7 S. 4(1)(b) excluded by S.I. 2001/3998, reg. 9(7)(8) (as inserted (15.10.2003) by Misuse of Drugs (Amendment) (No.3) Regulations 2003 (S.I. 2003/2429), regs. 1, 2(6))

C8 S. 4(1)(b) excluded by S.I. 2001/3998, reg. 8(7) (as substituted (14.11.2005) by Misuse of Drugs and the Misuse of Drugs (Supply to Addicts) (amendment) Regulations 2005 (S.I. 2005/2864), regs. 1(1), 7)

C9 S. 4(1)(b) excluded by S.I. 2001/3998, reg. 8(7) (as substituted (14.11.2005) by Misuse of Drugs and the Misuse of Drugs (Supply to Addicts) (amendment) Regulations 2005 (S.I. 2005/2864), regs. 1(1), 8)

C10 S. 4(2)(3) saved by (E.W.) Criminal Law Act 1977 (c. 45), Sch. 5 para. 1(2)(b)(i)(ii) and (S.) Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1975 (c. 21), Sch. 7B para. 1(2)(b)(i)(ii)


[F6 4A Aggravation of offence of supply of controlled drug

(1) This section applies if—

(a) a court is considering the seriousness of an offence under section 4(3) of this Act, and
(b) at the time the offence was committed the offender had attained the age of 18.
(2) If either of the following conditions is met the court—

(a) must treat the fact that the condition is met as an aggravating factor (that is to say, a factor that increases the seriousness of the offence) , and
(b) must state in open court that the offence is so aggravated.
(3) The first condition is that the offence was committed on or in the vicinity of school premises at a relevant time.

(4) The second condition is that in connection with the commission of the offence the offender used a courier who, at the time the offence was committed, was under the age of 18.

(5) In subsection (3) , a relevant time is—

(a) any time when the school premises are in use by persons under the age of 18;
(b) one hour before the start and one hour after the end of any such time.
(6) For the purposes of subsection (4) , a person uses a courier in connection with an offence under section 4(3) of this Act if he causes or permits another person (the courier) —

(a) to deliver a controlled drug to a third person, or
(b) to deliver a drug related consideration to himself or a third person.
(7) For the purposes of subsection (6) , a drug related consideration is a consideration of any description which—

(a) is obtained in connection with the supply of a controlled drug, or
(b) is intended to be used in connection with obtaining a controlled drug.
(8) In this section— “school premises” means land used for the purposes of a school excluding any land occupied solely as a dwelling by a person employed at the school; and “school” has the same meaning— (a) in England and Wales, as in section 4 of the Education Act 1996; (b) in Scotland, as in section 135(1) of the Education (Scotland) Act 1980; (c) in Northern Ireland, as in Article 2(2) of the Education and Libraries (Northern Ireland) Order 1986.]

Annotations:

Amendments (Textual)

F6 S. 4A inserted (1.1.2006) by Drugs Act 2005 (c. 17), ss. 1, 24(3) (with s. 1(2)); S.I. 2005/3053, art. 3(a)


5 Restriction of possession of controlled drugs.

(1) Subject to any regulations under section 7 of this Act for the time being in force, it shall not be lawful for a person to have a controlled drug in his possession.

(2) Subject to section 28 of this Act and to subsection (4) below, it is an offence for a person to have a controlled drug in his possession in contravention of subsection (1) above.

[F7 (2A) Subsections (1) and (2) do not apply in relation to a temporary class drug.]

(3) Subject to section 28 of this Act, it is an offence for a person to have a controlled drug in his possession, whether lawfully or not, with intent to supply it to another in contravention of section 4(1) of this Act.

(4) In any proceedings for an offence under subsection (2) above in which it is proved that the accused had a controlled drug in his possession, it shall be a defence for him to prove—

(a) that, knowing or suspecting it to be a controlled drug, he took possession of it for the purpose of preventing another from committing or continuing to commit an offence in connection with that drug and that as soon as possible after taking possession of it he took all such steps as were reasonably open to him to destroy the drug or to deliver it into the custody of a person lawfully entitled to take custody of it; or
(b) that, knowing or suspecting it to be a controlled drug, he took possession of it for the purpose of delivering it into the custody of a person lawfully entitled to take custody of it and that as soon as possible after taking possession of it he took all such steps as were reasonably open to him to deliver it into the custody of such a person.
[F8 (5) Subsection (4) above shall apply in the case of proceedings for an offence under section 19(1) of this Act consisting of an attempt to commit an offence under subsection (2) above as it applies in the case of proceedings for an offence under subsection (2) , subject to the following modifications, that is to say—

(a) for the references to the accused having in his possession, and to his taking possession of, a controlled drug there shall be substituted respectively references to his attempting to get, and to his attempting to take, possession of such a drug; and
(b) in paragraphs (a) and (b) the words from “and that as soon as possible” onwards shall be omitted.]
(6) Nothing in subsection (4) [F9 or (5) ] above shall prejudice any defence which it is open to a person charged with an offence under this section to raise apart from that subsection.

Annotations:

Amendments (Textual)

F7 S. 5(2A) inserted (15.11.2011) by Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011 (c. 13), s. 157(1), Sch. 17 para. 6; S.I. 2011/2515, art. 3(g)

F8 S. 5(5) repealed (E.W.) by Criminal Attempts Act 1981 (c. 47, SIF 39:1), Sch. Pt. I and (N.I.) by S.I. 1983/1120 (N.I. 13), Sch.

F9 Words repealed (E.W.) by Criminal Attempts Act 1981 (c. 47, SIF 39:1), Sch. Pt. I and (N.I.) by S.I. 1983/1120 (N.I. 13), Sch.

Modifications etc. (not altering text)

C11 S. 5(1) excluded (1.2.2002) by S.I. 2001/3998, regs. 4, 6(4)-(7), 10, 11(1)(2) (with reg. 2(3))

C12 S. 5(2)(3) saved by (E.W.) Criminal Law Act 1977 (c. 45), Sch. 5 para. 1(2)(a)(b)(iii) and (S.) Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1975 (c. 21), Sch. 7B, para. 1(2)(a)(b)(iii)


6 Restriction of cultivation of cannabis plant.

(1) Subject to any regulations under section 7 of this Act for the time being in force, it shall not be lawful for a person to cultivate any plant of the genusCannabis.

(2) Subject to section 28 of this Act, it is an offence to cultivate any such plant in contravention subsection (1) above.

7 Authorisation of activities otherwise unlawful under foregoing provisions.

(1) The Secretary of State may by regulations—

(a) except from section 3(1) (a) or (b) , 4(1) (a) or (b) or 5(1) of this Act such controlled drugs as may be specified in the regulations; and
(b) make such other provision as he thinks fit for the purpose of making it lawful for persons to do things which under any of the following provisions of this Act, that is to say sections 4(1) , 5(1) and 6(1) , it would otherwise be unlawful for them to do.
(2) Without prejudice to the generality of paragraph (b) of subsection (1) above, regulations under that subsection authorising the doing of any such thing as is mentioned in that paragraph may in particular provide for the doing of that thing to be lawful—

(a) if it is done under and in accordance with the terms of a licence or other authority issued by the Secretary of State and in compliance with any conditions attached thereto; or
(b) if it is done in compliance with such conditions as may be prescribed.
(3) Subject to subsection (4) below, the Secretary of State shall so exercise his power to make regulations under subsection (1) above as to secure—

(a) that it is not unlawful under section 4(1) of this Act for a doctor, dentist, veterinary practitioner or veterinary surgeon, acting in his capacity as such, to prescribe, administer, manufacture, compound or supply a controlled drug, or for a pharmacist or a person lawfully conducting a retail pharmacy business, acting in either case in his capacity as such, to manufacture, compound or supply a controlled drug; and
(b) that it is not unlawful under section 5(1) of this Act for a doctor, dentist, veterinary practitioner, veterinary surgeon, pharmacist or person lawfully conducting a retail pharmacy business to have a controlled drug in his possession for the purpose of acting in his capacity as such.
(4) If in the case of any controlled drug the Secretary of State is of the opinion that it is in the public interest—

(a) for production, supply and possession of that drug to be either wholly unlawful or unlawful except for purposes of research or other special purposes; or
(b) for it to be unlawful for practitioners, pharmacists and persons lawfully conducting retail pharmacy businesses to do in relation to that drug any of the things mentioned in subsection (3) above except under a licence or other authority issued by the Secretary of State,
he may by order designate that drug as a drug to which this subsection applies; and while there is in force an order under this subsection designating a controlled drug as one to which this subsection applies, subsection (3) above shall not apply as regards that drug.
(5) Any order under subsection (4) above may be varied or revoked by a subsequent order thereunder.

(6) The power to make orders under subsection (4) above shall be exercisable by statutory instrument, which shall be subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament.

(7) The Secretary of State shall not make any order under subsection (4) above except after consultation with or on the recommendation of the Advisory Council.

(8) References in this section to a person’s “doing” things include references to his having things in his possession.

(9) In its application to Northern Ireland this section shall have effect as if for references to the Secretary of State there were substituted references to the Ministry of Home Affairs for Northern Ireland and as if for subsection (6) there were substituted—

“(6) Any order made under subsection (4) above by the Ministry of Home Affairs for Northern Ireland shall be subject to negative resolution within the meaning of section 41(6) of the Interpretation Act (Northern Ireland) 1954 as if it were a statutory instrument within the meaning of that Act.”
[F10 (10) In this section a reference to “controlled drugs” does not include a reference to temporary class drugs (see instead section 7A).]

Annotations:

Amendments (Textual)

F10 S. 7(10) inserted (15.11.2011) by Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011 (c. 13), s. 157(1), Sch. 17 para. 7; S.I. 2011/2515, art. 3(g)

Modifications etc. (not altering text)

C13 Functions of Ministry of Home Affairs for Northern Ireland transferred to Department of Health and Social Services for Northern Ireland by S.R. & O. (N.I.) 1973 No. 504, Sch. 2 Pt. I


[F11 7A Temporary class drug orders: power to make further provision

(1) This section applies if a temporary class drug order specifies a substance or product as a drug subject to temporary control.

(2) The order may—

(a) include provision for the exception of the drug from the application of section 3(1) (a) or (b) or 4(1) (a) or (b) ,
(b) make such other provision as the Secretary of State thinks fit for the purpose of making it lawful for persons to do things in respect of the drug which under section 4(1) it would otherwise be unlawful for them to do,
(c) provide for circumstances in which a person's possession of the drug is to be treated as excepted possession for the purposes of this Act, and
(d) include any provision in relation to the drug of a kind that could be made in regulations under section 10 or 22 if the drug were a Class A drug, a Class B drug or a Class C drug (but ignoring section 31(3) ).
(3) Provision under subsection (2) may take the form of applying (with or without modifications) any provision made in regulations under section 7(1) , 10 or 22.

(4) Provision under subsection (2) (b) may (in particular) provide for the doing of something to be lawful if it is done—

(a) in circumstances mentioned in section 7(2) (a) , or
(b) in compliance with such conditions as may be prescribed by virtue of section 7(2) (b).
(5) Section 7(8) applies for the purposes of this section.

(6) Section 31(1) (general provision as to regulations) applies in relation to a temporary class drug order that contains provision made by virtue of this section as it applies to regulations under this Act.]

Annotations:

Amendments (Textual)

F11 S. 7A inserted (15.11.2011) by Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011 (c. 13), s. 157(1), Sch. 17 para. 8; S.I. 2011/2515, art. 3(g)