skip to main content

What are the different types of drug offences?

Earlier this year, the National Crime Agency stated that drug trafficking to the UK costs an estimated £10.7 billion per year, whilst findings from the 2017/18 Crime Survey for England and Wales show 1 in 11 British citizens used an illicit drug in the last year.

These alarming statistics from the Home Office sparked a national debate on whether tougher enforcement is needed, whilst the discussion prompted the BBC News headline “Reality Check: Is UK the 'drugs market of Europe'?” So what exactly are the different types of drug offences?


The Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 states it is unlawful to be in possession of a controlled drug unless you have approval in the form of a license, such as a prescription. If you are caught with drugs, you can be charged whether they are yours or not, and if you’re under 18, police have the right to inform your parent, guardian or carer. The penalty for possession varies depending on where you and the drugs are found, previous history and the class and quantity of the drug. For example, the maximum penalty for a class A drug, such as crack, ecstasy (MDMA), cocaine, heroin and LSD is up to 7 years in prison.

The ACPO (Association of Chief Police Officers) do advise that police to take an escalating approach to those aged over 17 possessing cannabis for personal use, with an initial warning for first time offenders, an on-the-spot fine for a second offence and an arrest for a third occurrence. That said, current legislation states that possession of a class B drug like cannabis, amphetamines, barbiturates, codeine, and ketamine can bring a sentence of up to 5 years.

For possession a class C drug, such as anabolic steroids, benzodiazepines (diazepam), gamma hydroxybutyrate (GHB) and khat, the maximum penalty is up to 2 years in prison.


It’s also an offence to have a controlled drug in your possession (lawfully or not) with the intent to supply it to another person who has no legal right to possess it. The penalty is also likely to be more severe than possession alone, and if you are found guilty of producing or supplying a class A drug, you may face life in prison. The main offences connected with the supply of controlled drugs includes actual supply, offer to supply, being concerned in supply, aggravated supply and possession with intent to supply, whilst it’s important to note that sharing drugs is also considered supplying.

Again, the amount of drugs found and whether you have a criminal record will affect the gravity of your penalty.


Those who produce controlled drugs can also face life imprisonment, whilst the maximum penalty for manufacturing, cultivating or producing a class B or C drug is 14 years’ custody.

To summarise, you can be fined or sentenced if you decide to consume, carry, manufacture or supply drugs or psychoactive substances, yet penalties vary depending on the crime, the type of drug and the quantity.

To view the statistics we’ve touched on in more detail please visit the following websites:

Read next article

Noble Solicitors – Fighting For You
Always Protecting Your Rights.
07000 81 82 83