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Drugs and the Law

Drugs and the Law

Understanding the law on drugs can be difficult but basically if you are caught with an illegal substance, be ready to face the consequences because acting ‘dumb’ won’t cut it.

The Misuse of Drugs Act divides drugs into three classes:

Class A

  • Cocaine, crack, crystal meth, ecstasy, heroin, LSD (acid), magic mushrooms, methadone, opium, and any class B drug prepared for injection;
  • Less common substances: dextromoramide (e.g. Palfium), dipipanone, fentanyl, mescaline, pethidine, PCP, all parts of the seeds of the opium poppy (after mowing);

Maximum penalties: seven years in prison and/or a fine for possession, life imprisonment and/or a fine for possession with intent to supply.

Class B

  • Amphetamines (speed), barbiturates, cannabis, codeine. This class also includes the following less common substances: dexamphetamine, dihydrocodeine (DF0118), methaqualone, methylphenidate hydrochloride (Ritalin), phenmetrazine (Filon);

Maximum penalties: five years in prison and/or a fine for possession, 14 years in prison and/or a fine for possession with intent to supply.

Class C

  • Ketamine, some tranquillisers like Temazepam, the supply of anabolic steroids;

Maximum penalties: two years in prison and/or a fine for possession, five years prison and/or a fine for possession with intent to supply.

These penalties are given in a Crown Court. In a Magistrates Court, where less serious offences are dealt with, the maximum sentence is six months imprisonment and a £5000 fine.

The actual sentence you're likely to get will also depend various thing such as:

  • The drug involved;
  • Any previous criminal record;
  • Your personal circumstances (i.e. being a single parent);
  • The attitude of the presiding magistrate/judge.
  • Whether or not you have had dealings with the PSNI before

Some other drugs are controlled by the Medicines Act. It may not be illegal to possess drugs such as prescription medicines, but supply is still an offence.

Drug testing on arrest

If you're arrested and taken to a police station, you may be tested to find out if you've taken any Class A drugs. You may be tested if you've been arrested for a 'trigger offence'. Trigger offences include street robbery, burglary, car theft, handling stolen goods or supplying drugs.

A person cannot be forced to provide a sample for testing, but it is an offence to refuse to provide a sample without good cause.

Those who fail to provide a sample or comply with a required assessment face a fine of up to £2,500 and/or up to three months in prison.

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