Drugs penalties

You can get a fine or prison sentence if you:

  • take drugs
  • carry drugs
  • make drugs
  • sell, deal or share drugs (also called ‘supplying’ them)

The penalties depend on the type or ‘class’ of drug or substance, the amount you have, and whether you’re also dealing or producing it.

Class A

Class A drugs include:

  • cocaine
  • crack cocaine
  • ecstasy (MDMA)
  • heroin
  • LSD
  • magic mushrooms
  • methadone
  • methamphetamine (crystal meth)

Class B

Class B drugs include:

  • amphetamines
  • barbiturates
  • cannabis
  • codeine
  • gamma hydroxybutyrate (GHB)
  • gamma-butyrolactone (GBL)
  • ketamine
  • methylphenidate (Ritalin)
  • synthetic cannabinoids
  • synthetic cathinones (for example mephedrone, methoxetamine)

Class C

Class C drugs include:

  • anabolic steroids
  • benzodiazepines (diazepam)
  • khat
  • nitrous oxide (laughing gas)
  • piperazines (BZP)

Temporary class drugs

The government can ban new drugs for one year under a ‘temporary banning order’ while they decide how the drugs should be classified.

Penalties for drug possession, supply and production

The maximum penalties for drug possession, supply (selling, dealing or sharing) and production depend on the drug class.

Maximum penalty for possession Maximum penalty for supply and production
Class A Up to 7 years in prison, an unlimited fine or both Up to life in prison, an unlimited fine or both
Class B Up to 5 years in prison, an unlimited fine or both Up to 14 years in prison, an unlimited fine or both
Class C Up to 2 years in prison, an unlimited fine or both (except anabolic steroids - it’s not an offence to possess them for personal use) Up to 14 years in prison, an unlimited fine or both
Temporary class drugs None, but police can take away a suspected temporary class drug Up to 14 years in prison, an unlimited fine or both

Psychoactive substances penalties

Psychoactive substances are things that cause:

  • hallucinations
  • drowsiness
  • changes in alertness
  • changes in perception of time and space
  • changes in mood or empathy with others

Food, alcohol, nicotine, caffeine, medicine and illegal drugs do not count as psychoactive substances.

Possession penalty

There is no penalty for carrying psychoactive substances, unless you’re in prison.

Supply and production penalty

You can get up to 7 years in prison, an unlimited fine or both if you:

  • carry a psychoactive substance and you intend to supply it
  • make a psychoactive substance
  • sell, deal or share a psychoactive substance (also called supplying them)

Possessing drugs

You may be charged with possessing an illegal substance if you’re caught with drugs, whether they’re yours or not.

If you’re under 18, the police are allowed to tell your parent, guardian or carer that you’ve been caught with drugs.

Your penalty will depend on:

  • the class and quantity of drug
  • where you and the drugs were found
  • your personal history (previous crimes, including any previous drug offences)
  • other aggravating or mitigating factors

Cannabis and khat

Police can issue a warning or an on-the-spot fine of up to £90 if you’re found with cannabis or khat. You may be able to pay your penalty without getting a formal warning or caution.

If you’re repeatedly found with cannabis or khat, your penalty may vary from treatment to their maximum penalty for possession.

Dealing or supplying drugs

The penalty is likely to be more severe if you are found to be supplying drugs (dealing, selling or sharing).

The police will probably charge you if they suspect you of supplying drugs. The amount of drugs found and whether you have a criminal record will affect your penalty.

More information

Talk to FRANK has help, information and advice about drugs.