UK Cannabis Law – A Basic Understanding
Is Cannabis Legal In The UK?
In 1971, the Misuse of Drugs Act made cannabis completely illegal in the UK.
Cannabis remains illegal in the country, but the penalties aren’t too severe if caught with small amounts for personal use. Along with amphetamines, codeine, ketamine, and barbiturates, it is classified as a ‘Class B’ drug.
A small amount of cannabis found in the offender’s possession will usually result in a warning or an on-the-spot fine of £90. It does not matter whether the cannabis belongs to the offender or not. A police officer has the right to notify the offender’s parents or guardians if he or she is under the age of 18.
Cannabis use and possession are generally prosecuted in a relaxed manner by the authorities, according to some reports. Cornwall and Devon, for example, have prosecution rates as low as 15%, and Durham’s police have stated they are no longer targeting recreational users.
It is possible to adjust the penalties based on the following factors:
Offender’s cannabis possession quantity.
The location of the offender and the cannabis (for instance, if the cannabis was found outside a nightclub, the offender may have intended to sell it).
Personal history (previous drug offences etc.)
Other aggravating factors.
Cannabis possession carries a maximum five-year prison sentence, an unlimited fine, or both.
At the beginning of 2019, the UK government reviewed its drug policies. They announced no reforms, much to the disappointment of cannabis advocates nationwide. In spite of this, the appointed chair, Dame Carol Black, stated that she would investigate the impact of reform in other countries (such as Portugal and Canada, both of which have progressive laws).
Cannabis law reform has many advantages, according to an advocate writing for The Guardian, stating that “under legal regulation, cannabis would only be sold to adults, the market could be taxed, policing costs would fall, and money could be devoted to prevention, treatment, and harm reduction interventions that are proven to work.”
As of now, however, it appears unlikely that the UK will decriminalise small amounts of cannabis.
Can you sell cannabis in the UK?
In the UK, cannabis distribution and sale are considered far more serious offences. A person who sells or supplies a Class B drug (including cannabis) may face up to 14 years in prison, an unlimited fine, or both.
This penalty is rarely imposed except in large-scale or high-profile trafficking operations. A person’s history, the amount of cannabis they were caught with, and how they intended to sell it determine their sentence.
There is also consideration for the ‘Category of Harm’. Cannabis with a weight of 200 kilograms or more is considered a Category 1 offence. A Category 2 weighs between 40 and 200 kilograms, a Category 3 weighs between six and 40, and a Category 4 weighs anything over 100 grams.
In the UK, other acts are also considered ‘intention to supply’. According to the Drug Trafficking Act (1994), trafficking includes not only giving or selling cannabis, but also transporting, storing, importing, or exporting it.
Can you grow cannabis in the UK?
Growing cannabis is illegal in the UK, as is the production or manufacture of any drug. According to a UN report, 95 tonnes of cannabis were grown in the UK in 2016 for medicinal and scientific purposes. Nearly half of the world’s total was accounted for by this group.
Additionally, the UK exports 67.7% of the world’s illegal cannabis to other countries, making it the largest exporter in the world.
Given how difficult it is to obtain medicinal legal cannabis in the UK, some have called the extensive cultivation of cannabis for medicinal purposes hypocritical. The husband of the UK’s Prime Minister, Theresa May, is a major investor in GW Pharmaceuticals, which produces Sativex, one of the world’s most commonly used medicinal cannabis products.
Is CBD legal in the UK?
CBD was finally recognised as a medicine in the UK in 2017. The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MRHA) classified CBD as a medicinal ingredient based on its efficacy, as well as its safety and quality standards (which CBD products must meet).
According to the UK’s Home Office, CBD oil can be sold in the country if it contains no more than 0.2% THC (the substance that produces the high).
CBD oil has not yet been licensed as a medicine, but CBD can be sold legally as long as no claims are made about its medicinal benefits. CBD supplements and topicals are available from some retailers, such as Holland and Barrett, a health-food store on the high street.
Can cannabis seeds be sent to the UK?
It is legal to use, purchase, and sell cannabis seeds in the UK. Mailing them into the country, and mailing them out, is also legal. It is not possible to use them for germination or to grow cannabis plants from them.
Medicinal cannabis in the UK
Medicinal cannabis products were legalised in the UK in 2018, and registered doctors can prescribe them to “patients in need”. At the moment, access to medicinal cannabis is limited to a few healthcare practitioners, but this is likely to expand as more doctors become trained in its use.
As a result of two high-profile cases earlier this year involving children with epilepsy, Billy Caldwell and Alfie Dingley, the laws were reformed. The Dingley family was forced to smuggle cannabis oil from Canada to treat their son’s condition in April 2018. In support of the group, the UK’s media put pressure on the government to review its legal position.
Many welcomed the decision to legalise medicinal cannabis, but some complained that the laws were too restrictive, so that only a few patients would be able to obtain the products.
According to Alex Fraser, patient access specialist at Grow Biotech, doctors and pharmacies are reluctant to risk their licences by facilitating access. “Most people are still forced to purchase their medications on the black market.”
Sir Mike Penning, co-chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Medical Cannabis Under Prescription, criticised the government’s actions even more. According to him, those responsible for this botched and cruel outcome should hang their heads in shame. Many thousands of patients and their families have been crushed by guidance and recommendations that effectively shut down the policy.”
There are currently only three products available to patients. Among them are:
Sativex – MS patients can only take this medication
Nabilone – It is only prescribed for the treatment of chemotherapy-related side effects
Epidiolex – Children and adults with epilepsy can only take this medication
The use of these medications would only be recommended if all other treatment options had failed.