Under the Substance Misuse Act, 1971 an individual is considered an offence if he is found to be guilty of either of the below mentioned activities: He is found to illegally possess a controlled substance. He is found to be dealing with any of the controlled substances. Supplying drugs even to friends or without charging any money is also considered to be a crime. He is found to be allowing the supply or trafficking of drugs to take place on the premises, owed by him. He is involved in illegal supply or production of controlled substances. Classification of controlled substances under the Substance Misuse Act
Class A drugs. Class a drugs include drugs like Ecstasy, LSD, heroin, cocaine or crack, magic mushrooms, amphetamines (especially those prepared for illicit use). If an individual is found to illegally owe class A drugs, he can be imprisoned for a period of seven years or asked to give a fine, whose value has not been fixed by law. Under some conditions the individual may be subjected to both the above mentioned penalties. If the individual has been found to be dealing with drugs, he may be served an imprisonment for life, an unlimited fine or both these penalties (Home Office, 2007).
Class B drugs. Class B group of drugs includes drugs like Amphetamines, methylphenidate, (Ritalin), Pholcodine etc. If an individual is found to be under illegal possession of class B drugs he can be imprisoned for a period of five years, asked to give a fine for amount of money that would be decided by the court or penalized with both these things. If a person is found to be dealing with drugs he can be imprisoned for up to 14 years or asked to give an unlimited amount of fine or penalized with both these punishments (Home Office, 2007).
Class C drug. Class C drug include cannabis, tranquilisers, some painkillers, GHB (Gamma hydroxybutyrate), valium, ketamine etc. If a person has been found to possess class C drugs he can be imprisoned for up to two years or asked to give an unlimited fine or penalized with both these punishments. If an individual is found to be dealing with class C drugs he can be imprisoned for a period up to 14 years or asked to give an unlimited fine or he may be penalized with both these punishments (Home Office, 2007).
In order to enforce these laws the police have been given special powers to stop, detain and search people on ‘reasonable suspicion’ that they are in possession of a controlled drug (Home Office, 2007). Recent changes in the law regarding drugs The legal status of fresh magic mushrooms has been changed. Since the year 2005, the fresh mushrooms, as well as prepared ones, have been classified as class A drugs. Magic mushrooms are mushrooms that grow in the wild (Drugs Act, 2005). They produce hallucinations and other effects similar to other hallucinogenic drugs (like LSD) on being eaten.
Presence of hallucinogenic substances like Psilocin or Psilocybin in these mushrooms is responsible for producing these symptoms. There has been continuing controversy regarding the classification of cannabis. Earlier it had been classified as a type B drug. However in January 2005, it was re-classified from class B to class C drugs. As a result of this change in classification, maximum penalty for possessing this drug has been reduced from five years to two years imprisonment.
The maximum penalty for those found guilt of supplying this drug remains same as what was before i. e. 14 years (Home Office, 2007). If an adult individual is found to be possessing cannabis, most of the times the police would confiscate the drug and release the offender after giving him a warning. However the police are more likely to arrest an individual who has been found to be openly smoking cannabis or supplying it. The person is also more likely to be arrested if he has been repeatedly caught with cannabis.
If individuals under the age of eighteen years are caught with cannabis, they may be arrested, taken to a police station and released after giving a formal warning or after informing their parents. In certain cases the individual may be even reprimanded. Further offences may lead to arrest charges (Home Office, 2007). In January 2007, the drug Methamphetamine was re-classified as a Class A drug (Home Office, 2007). Methamphetamines have been discovered to be very dangerous drug. Thus this re-classification would help in preventing its use, supply and manufacture.