Is cannabis illegal in UK and where is weed legal to smoke and buy?
- 28 Dec 2019, 18:30
- Updated : 20 Apr 2020, 13:39
- Invalid Date,
MARIJUANA has been illegal in the UK since 1928 – but will laws around the Class B drug be relaxed?
Here’s everything you need to know about drug laws on cannabis as they currently stand.
Is marijuana illegal in the UK?
Cannabis remains illegal to possess, grow, distribute, sell or grow in the UK.
Being caught with cannabis comes with a maximum of five years in prison, an unlimited fine, or both.
While being convicted of producing and supplying the Class B drug carries up to 14 years behind bars, an unlimited fine, or both.
Police can issue a warning or on-the-spot fine if you’re caught with a small amount – generally less than one ounce – if it is deemed for personal use.
Is it illegal to smoke cannabis in your own home?
Like all drugs in Britain, weed is regulated extremely stringently by the Government.
As the punishments suggest, it’s completely illegal to smoke weed anywhere in Britain – including on your own property.
However, some police forces have taken a more laid-back attitude to the recreational drug, which is believed to be the most popular in the UK.
Prosecution rates for cannabis possession are as low as 15 per cent in Cornwall and Devon, while Durham Police have said they will no longer target recreational users at all.
Is medical marijuana legal in the UK?
Medical forms of marijuana are available over the counter or by prescription in the UK – but it is heavily monitored and regulated.
Doctors were given the go-ahead to prescribe cannabis products to patients from November 1, 2018.
The new rules apply to England, Wales and Scotland, Sajid Javid said in a written statement.
It follows several high-profile cases, including young epilepsy sufferers Alfie Dingley and Billy Caldwell, whose conditions appeared to be helped by cannabis oil.
In order for a cannabis product to be considered medicinal it must meet three requirements: it “needs to be a preparation or product which contains cannabis, cannabis resin, cannabinol or a cannabinol derivative; it is produced for medicinal use in humans and; is a medicinal product, or a substance or preparation for use as an ingredient of, or in the production of an ingredient of, a medicinal product”, according to Mr Javid’s statement.
In July 2019, it was ruled that the NHS could prescribe cannabis-based medicine to treat Lennox Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome.
Trials of the drug were carried out at London’s Great Ormond Street Hospital on children who were having multiple seizures a day.
Results showed the drug stopped the seizures in many cases and significantly reduced them in others.
The decision by the European Medicines Agency has to be confirmed in two months, but that is expected to be a formality paving the way for the liquid medicine to be available on the NHS later this year for dozens of children affected by the two conditions.
Where is weed legal?
Weed has been decriminalised for personal use in a number of countries, including the Netherlands and Portugal, which decriminalised the use of all drugs in 2001.
Canada legalised cannabis for medicinal purposes in 2001. But in October 2018 Canada became the first G7 nation to legalise recreational use of the drug.
In Australia, Puerto Rico, Poland, Czech Republic, Turkey, Croatia and Macedonia it is legal for medicinal purposes.
Some US states have legalised marijuana while others allow it for medicinal use only.
New York state was the latest to decriminalise recreational use in July 2019.
Possession of small amounts of the drug will be punished with fines rather than jail time, a step short of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s goal of legalising pot.
The Liberal Democrats became the first major British political party to support the legalisation of cannabis in March 2016.
How many people in the UK smoke weed?
The use of most drugs has declined in the UK since records began in 1996, according to a 2016 Home Office survey.
It found that cannabis was by some distance the most commonly used drug, with 6.5 per cent of adults aged between 16 and 59 smoking in the previous year.
Weed was also the most popular among those aged between 16 and 24, with 15.8 per cent using it in that same time.
The next popular drug was powdered cocaine.
When did cannabis become illegal in the UK?
Cannabis was banned in 1928.
Its medical use was outlawed in 1971 and growing plants was made illegal in 1964.
Here's everything you need to know about cannabis
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 of drug or substance, the amount you have, and whether you’re also dealing or producing it.
Types of drugs
The maximum penalties for drug possession, supply (selling, dealing or sharing) and production depend on what type or ‘class’ the drug is.
|Drug||Possession||Supply and production|
|Class A||Crack cocaine, cocaine, ecstasy (MDMA ), heroin, LSD , magic mushrooms, methadone, methamphetamine (crystal meth)||Up to 7 years in prison, an unlimited fine or both||Up to life in prison, an unlimited fine or both|
|Class B||Amphetamines, barbiturates, cannabis, codeine, ketamine, methylphenidate (Ritalin), synthetic cannabinoids, synthetic cathinones (for example mephedrone, methoxetamine)||Up to 5 years in prison, an unlimited fine or both||Up to 14 years in prison, an unlimited fine or both|
|Class C||Anabolic steroids, benzodiazepines (diazepam), gamma hydroxybutyrate (GHB ), gamma-butyrolactone (GBL ), piperazines (BZP ), khat||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*||Some methylphenidate substances (ethylphenidate, 3,4-dichloromethylphenidate (3,4-DCMP), methylnaphthidate (HDMP-28), isopropylphenidate (IPP or IPPD), 4-methylmethylphenidate, ethylnaphthidate, propylphenidate) and their simple derivatives||None, but police can take away a suspected temporary class drug||Up to 14 years in prison, an unlimited fine or both|
*The government can ban new drugs for 1 year under a ‘temporary banning order’ while they decide how the drugs should be classified.
Psychoactive substances penalties
Psychoactive substances include things like nitrous oxide (‘laughing gas’).
You can get a fine or prison sentence 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)
|Psychoactive substances||Possession||Supply and production|
|Things that cause hallucinations, drowsiness or changes in alertness, perception of time and space, mood or empathy with others||None, unless you’re in prison||Up to 7 years in prison, an unlimited fine or both|
Food, alcohol, nicotine, caffeine, medicine and the types of drugs listed above do not count as psychoactive substances.
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
Police can issue a warning or an on-the-spot fine of £90 if you’re found with cannabis.
Police can issue a warning or an on-the-spot fine of £60 on the first 2 times that you’re found with khat. If you’re found with khat more than twice, you could get a maximum penalty of up to 2 years in prison, an unlimited fine, or both.
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.
Talk to FRANK has help, information and advice about drugs.
The penalties if you are caught taking or dealing drugs – drug classification, fines and prison sentences