The Misuse of Drugs Act defines criminal offences for specified activities including possession, supply and production of ‘controlled drugs’. It also specifies which drugs are controlled. Drugs are classified as Class A, B, or C, according to an assessment of their relative harms (A deemed most harmful, C least). These classifications are coupled to a hierarchy of sanctions, with harsher prison sentences and fines for drugs in higher classifications.
The Misuse of Drugs Act also established an independent expert advisory group, the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD), which is responsible for monitoring the drug situation in the UK and advising government. The ACMD make recommendations to amend drug classifications, or add new drugs to Class A, B, or C – either at the request of a government minister, or when they consider it necessary.
The controlled drugs list is extensive, but examples include,
- Class A – heroin, cocaine, ecstasy and LSD.
- Class B – speed, cannabis, ketamine, mephedrone and some amphetamines
- Class C – anabolic steroids, GHB and some tranquilisers