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Reading time - 7 minutes - November 16, 2021
If cannabis was a class, which would it be? History? English lit? Food-tech? Just kidding, that’s not the kind of class we’re talking about. The UK’s stance on cannabis has slowly developed in the last couple of years, and things aren’t looking as bad and stagnant as they once were. However, when it comes to the legality of cannabis, there’s definitely more to be done. But where does weed sit in the UK’s drug class system? Is it a class A drug? Is it a class B drug? Or is it a class C drug? In this article we’ll be figuring out where cannabis sits in the class system, and perhaps where it should sit. Unfortunately they may not be the same answer. Let’s go.
Weed or cannabis or marijuana is a drug that derives from the cannabis plant. The cannabis plant is a complex beauty with over 400 compounds, 100 of which are described as cannabinoids. These cannabinoids are what gives cannabis its well-known effects and particular aromas. Cannabis is used all over the world for recreational and medical benefits. It’s the difference between the two that we will delve into in this article, as they’re both dealt with differently in the UK. But first, let’s take a step further back and decipher between the two most common cannabinoids in weed: THC and CBD.
THC is a cannabinoid that has a psychoactive substance, which means it alters the state of the mind. It’s this process that people refer to as the common ‘high’ effect of weed. THC is known to give people a sense of euphoria, make people laugh, and increase appetite. THC is not a legal substance in the UK.
CBD is like THC’s well-mannered sibling. CBD does not have psychoactive tendencies, and does not alter the state of the mind. However, that’s not to say that it has no effects at all. CBD is known to make the users feel relaxed, and can help with concentration and sleep. CBD is a legal substance in the UK.
You can already see where the problems lie. As more research has been done into cannabis, the UK has decided to legalize one cannabinoid (CBD) but not another (THC). Therefore, you can’t really answer the question of whether weed is legal in the UK without understanding the differences between the two. Let’s fully understand what is and isn’t legal in the UK when it comes to the cannabis plant.
Want to know more about weed legality in the UK? Click here.
So, what parts of cannabis are legal in the UK? Well, CBD products are completely legal in the UK and are easily purchasable at your local shops and online. These include CBD edibles, creams, drinks and any product containing 0.2% THC or less. In addition, in 2018, medical cannabis was made legal. This means that patients can get cannabis prescriptions privately, but the NHS do not currently offer it. However, the prices can be extortionate due to them being private institutions. Plus, getting it prescribed is not always easy, and some people have to try various other medicines before finally being allowed weed.
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Whilst the majority of CBD products are legal, there is one specific one that isn’t. That is CBD flowers or buds. Cannabis buds that contain less than 0.2% and only CBD are still illegal in the UK due to the fact that they resemble THC cannabis in basically every way other than the way that matters. It’s a very strange law. In addition, products with above 0.2% THC are, as previously mentioned, illegal; regardless of what form they’re in. THC-dominant edibles, tinctures, buds, creams are all illegal in the UK. Basically any recreational use is illegal. But, the question is, how harsh are the prosecutions?
Prosecutions in the UK for cannabis-related crimes are pretty harsh in comparison with the rest of europe. It’s not quite as bad as Singapore, where you may receive the death penalty for trafficing cannabis, but it’s still far from progressive. Each country has its own way of categorising drugs, and deciding how harsh the penalties should be. In America, they have the drug scheduling system, and in the UK we have the class system. Since the Misuse of Drugs Act of 1971, each drug is placed into class A, B or C. So where does cannabis sit? And what does this mean?
In the UK, you’re eligible for a prosecution if you possess drugs, make drugs, sell drugs, or do drugs. Basically anything to do with drugs is a potential chance to be sentenced. The class system dictates how severe these punishments may be, depending on how serious the drug is. Drugs in Class A are considered, by parliament, to be the most harmful. This means that they believe them to be especially addictive, and could have a threat of harm.
Class C drugs are considered the least serious, and they include: Anabolic steroids, diazepam, GHB and BZP. Possession, selling or creation of class C drugs could cause an unlimited fine and/or up to 2 years in prison.
Class B drugs include: Amphetamines, cannabis, codeine, ketamine and mephedrone. Possession, selling or creation of class B drugs could cause an unlimited fine and/or up to 5 years in prison.
Class A drugs are considered the most serious, and they include: cocaine, MDMA, LSD, mushrooms and heroin. Possession, selling or creation of class A drugs could cause an unlimited fine and/or up to 7 years in prison. Although, on special occasions, the sentence could be life imprisonment.
So, like many of us, you might be wondering why cannabis is considered a class B drug? You’d assume a drug that is now considered to be a medicine would not be a class B drug. However, it’s important to remember that almost all drugs are used as medicines, in one way or another. Ketamine, Nos, and even heroin all have their place in the medical world and are used in small doses to treat various mental and physical problems. So, the issue here, lies in these drugs being used for recreational purposes.
According to DPP Laws
“Due to new scientific research which suggested that cannabis was more harmful to the human body than first thought, cannabis was reclassified as a Class B drug in January 2009.”
It’s true, cannabis wasn’t always a class B drug. In fact, in 2004, cannabis was re-classified as a class C drug. Tony Blair believed cannabis to not be harmful enough to warrant it being higher on the class system. However, supposedly, things got out of hand, and they had to then change it back in 2009. A police officer said this in 2004:
“People are adamant that it is now legal and don’t believe you when you tell them that it is not. [I] just try to explain that it has been reclassified, not legalised, and that it is still illegal to possess it.”
Therefore, weed went back to being a class B drug in 2009. However, there’s no doubt that in recent years the police have been more lenient with it, despite it’s return to a higher class. If you’re found with around 3 grams or less of cannabis, you’re more likely than not going to get a warning, or have it confiscated. Perhaps you’ll get a £90 fine, worse case scenario. The authorities are fully aware of the limited dangers of cannabis for personal use.
With cannabis returning to class B, after being class C, it’s very unlikely that it will suddenly change again. The government would face a huge backlash from anti-drug folk. Therefore, it’s more likely that recreational weed would be legalized or decriminalized first. With the world shifting towards cannabis legalization, it’s only a matter of time… hopefully.
Want to know how cannabis can help with epilepsy? Click here.
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