Drugs and The Law

As well as the medical risks surrounding drug use, there are, of course, the legal problems. Students wishing to pass professional examinations in law and medicine may be disqualified for a drug conviction. Even for other jobs, a drug record will be a disadvantage. Many employers also make their workforce take drugs tests.

The Misuse of Drugs Act (MDA 1971)

Under this act, drugs are classified according to their seriousness into 3 classes; A, B and C. Class A possession results in a maximum of 7 years in jail and a financial penalty. For class B the maximum is 5 years and a financial penalty and class C has a maximum sentence of 2 years and a financial penalty. However, on average less than 10% of offenders actually receive a custodial sentence for possession.

Possession with intent to supply is more serious offence; involving a class A drug it carries an unlimited fine and a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. You can be charged even without evidence of a sale if they decide the amount in your possession is not all for personal use. Clubbing together with your friends to buy drugs in bulk is technically intent to supply by the person who picks up.

The Medicines Act

Substances that are abused but not controlled under the MDA usually fall under the medicines act; including tranquilisers and ketamine. This means that a doctor can legally prescribe them, but unauthorised use is illegal. Supplying these drugs is a serious offence.

Police powers

Under the MDA, police have the power to stop, search and detain anyone on a reasonable suspicion of possessing an illicit drug. If they can prove that an illegal drug is, or has been, in your possession then you are liable to be arrested on a possession charge. Bouncers at clubs can also search you and then can hand you over to the police. If the police are not in uniform, it’s a good idea to ask to see their warrant card, to ask them why you are being searched and for a record to be made of the search. If you are arrested you should insist on seeing a solicitor (you may have to wait, but ask for them to be present when you are interviewed). Don’t be put off seeing a solicitor by the police, it doesn’t make you look guilty, it makes you look like you know your rights.

College authorities

Colleges vary on how they treat drug use. Many students have been sent down or asked to leave college accommodation and the police have been involved in incidents in colleges. For many colleges, part of the accommodation contract means that they can enter your room at any time without prior warning and if they see drug paraphernalia of any sort they would have to act. Likewise, if a jacket or bag is found at a college event with drugs and an ID, they would not turn a blind eye.