Change To The Misuse Of Drugs Act 1971

Home Office circular 004/2013 Change to the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 Broad subject: Crime and disorder Issue date: Wed Feb 20 13:23:35…


Annex A: offence recording codes (PDF file - 25kb)

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Home Office circular 004/2013

Change to the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971

  • Broad subject: Crime and disorder
  • Issue date: Wed Feb 20 13:23:35 GMT 2013
  • From:
    Crime and policing group - Drugs and Alcohol Unit

  • Sub category: Drug offences
  • Implementation date: Wed Feb 20 13:23:35 GMT 2013
  • For more info contact:
    Cyrille Marcel 0207 035 0618 * Addressed to:
Chief Officers of Police (England and Wales), Chief Officer of Police (Northern Ireland), Chief Officers of Police (Scotland), Clerks to the Police Authorities, Chief Executive of Her Majesty’s Courts & Tribunals Service, Director of Crime, Delivery Directors, Heads of Crime, Cluster Managers, Regional Support Units, Crown Court staff, Magistrates’ Court staff, Clerks to the Justices, Royal Courts of Justice - Court of Appeal (Criminal Division) staff, Lord Chief Justice, President of the Queen’s Bench Division, Senior Presiding Judge for England and Wales, Lords Justices of Appeal, Presiding Judges, High Court Judges, Queen’s Bench Division, Crown Court Judges, Resident Judges, District Judges (Magistrates’ Courts), Chairmen of the Justices, Council of Circuit Judges

This circular draws attention to the contents of the above Statutory Instruments (SIs), S.I. 2013/239, S.I. 2013/176 and S.I. 2013/177 which come into force at 00:01 on 26 February 2013.

The Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 (Amendment) Order 2013:

1. amends the 2009 generic definition of controlled synthetic cannabinoid receptor agonists (‘synthetic cannabinoids’)

2. classifies:

  • methoxetamine and other related compounds, as well as
  • O-desmethyltramadol

as Class B drugs under Schedule 2 to the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 (‘the 1971 Act’).

This circular updates the previous Home Office Circular 021/2009 in respect of the synthetic cannabinoids. Methoxetamine and other related compounds are also subject to control as Class B drugs under Part II of that Schedule by way of a generic definition.  O-desmethyltramadol is listed under its chemical name, to be subject to control as a Class B drug, in Part II of that Schedule.

The Misuse of Drugs (Designation) (Amendment) (England, Wales and Scotland) Order 2013 amends the Misuse of Drugs (Designation) Order 2001 which “designates” controlled drugs to which section 7(4) of 1971 Act applies, because they have no recognised medicinal or legitimate use. This means it is unlawful to possess, supply, produce, import or export the drugs except under the required Home Office licence for research or other special purposes.

The Misuse of Drugs (Amendment) (England, Wales and Scotland) Regulations 2013 amend Schedule 1 to the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001 (the ‘2001 Regulations’) where the designated drugs are listed.

The codes for recording drug offences relating to these substances by the police and the courts for statistical purposes within the Home Office Recorded Crime and Ministry of Justice Court Appearance Database (CAD) - which includes cautions - are set out in Annex A.

The SIs together with explanatory memoranda are available on the website. They are also published by the Stationery Office and are available online or by calling 0870 600 5522.


The Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 controls drugs that are ‘dangerous or otherwise harmful’, primarily under a 3-tier system of classification (Classes A, B and C) which provides a framework within which criminal penalties are set with reference to the harm a drug has, or is capable of having, when misused and the type of illegal activity undertaken in regard to that drug.

The 2001 Regulations regulate the availability of those controlled drugs according to the legitimate uses that are recognised, as applicable, by placing them in 1 of 5 schedules to the Regulations. Drugs which have no legitimate uses are “designated” and placed in Schedule 1 to the 2001 Regulations which means they are subject to the strictest levels of control.

The new control, classification and scheduling of synthetic cannabinoids, methoxetamine and other related compounds by generic definitions, as well as O-desmethyltramadol under its chemical name, are predicated on an assessment of the respective harms that these drugs pose.  These are in accordance with recommendations of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) published in its 2012 reports ‘Further consideration of the synthetic cannabinoids’, ‘Methoxetamine report’ and ‘ACMD advice on O-desmethyltramadol’.

These drugs have been sold as new psychoactive substances (NPS), usually in branded products which often contain a range of compounds (including drugs listed in this circular as well as other drugs which are already subject to control under the 1971 Act).  It should be noted that the police can take action where they suspect that branded products contain controlled drugs.  Police Forces should refer to the operational guidance published by the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) on policing NPS.

Specific drugs

The new range of synthetic cannabinoids

Synthetic cannabinoids are harmful and dangerous NPS.  A range of synthetic cannabinoids were first brought under control in December 2009 (as detailed in Home Office Circular 021/2009). The harms of the new synthetic cannabinoids have been assessed as broadly similar to those controlled since 2009 being controlled as Class B drugs.

The synthetic cannabinoids captured by the new generic definition are also ‘designated’ and inserted into Schedule 1 to the 2001 Regulations.  

On 5 April 2012, methoxetamine (2-(ethylamino)-2-(3-methoxyphenyl)cyclohexanone) became a temporary class drug (see Home Office Circular 008/2012) within the provisions of section 2A of the 1971 Act, pending the ACMD’s advice in relation to permanent control.  The ACMD provided full advice in October 2012 confirming that the harms are commensurate with other Class B drugs.

The ACMD has also identified similarly harmful compounds related to controlled drugs ketamine (Class C) and phencyclidine (Class A) sold by ‘legal high’ suppliers.  The ACMD has therefore provided a generic definition to capture methoxetamine as well as the other compounds for control as Class B drugs under the 1971 Act, as ‘designated’ drugs and drugs listed in Schedule 1 to the 2001 Regulations.

Methoxetamine will cease to be subject to temporary control (SI 2012/980) when it becomes a controlled Class B drug listed in Part 2 of Schedule 2 to the 1971 Act.  This means that all offences and penalties apply in accordance with the 1971 Act, including the simple possession offence, from 26 February 2013.


O-desmethyltramadol (2-((dimethylamino)methyl)-1-(3-hydroxyphenyl)cyclohexanol) is an active metabolite of the prescription only medicine ‘tramadol’.  The ACMD has identified that O-desmethyltramadol has been sold as a ‘legal high’ and as an undeclared active ingredient in samples of the ‘legal high’ branded product ‘Krypton’ which has been linked to a number of deaths in Sweden but has not been seen in the UK to date. The harms associated with O-desmethyltramadol are commensurate with those of controlled Class B drugs.  This compound is also ‘designated’ and listed in Schedule 1 to the 2001 Regulations, having no recognised legitimate use.


This annex contains the codes for recording offences used by the police and the courts for statistical purposes in relation to synthetic cannabinoids,methoxetamine and O-desmethyltramadol.

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Published 20 February 2013