This brief guide explains UK Cannabis Laws relating to the growing and possession of cannabis and provides a brief summary and links to the groups who are actively seeking a change.
Cannabis – The Law
The Government insist that they have no intention of changing the laws surrounding activities relating to cannabis and continue to reinforce their non-scientific, non-evidence based policy. Their official line is “cannabis is a very harmful, very dangerous drug that can cause huge mental health problems and addiction” along with “cannabis has no medicinal benefits in herbal form”. Their reason for classifying cannabis as a “controlled” substance they say, is to protect people from themselves.
Cannabis is a Class B Drug under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. Although it is given the title of a “controlled drug” there is actually very little control that anyone has over it as the commercial market is predominantly run by organised crime and completely unregulated. There is no control over who produces it, who sells it, who it is sold to, or even that the quality of the product is safe to consume.
In the UK, it is actually legal to own cannabis seeds, such as the ones available on this website, but it is illegal to grow or attempt to grow the cannabis plant from these seeds unless you have a licence from the Home Office.
Cultivation of Cannabis
Cultivation is the tending of plants, i.e. watering, feeding, nurturing etc.
It is unlawful to cultivate any part of a cannabis plant. It is not an offence to supply or possess cannabis seeds, but any action which germinates or cultivates them is an offence.
A person can only be charged with cultivation or production, rather than both offences together.
The reason that an individual would be charged with production instead of cultivation is because production is classed as a ‘trafficking’ offence; which allows the authorities to order a POCA (Proceeds of Crime Act) hearing.
POCA provides the courts with scope to confiscate the proceeds of a crime where a defendant is shown to have benefited from their criminal conduct.
Possession of cannabis
If caught in possession of cannabis, as well as considering arrest and confiscating the drug, police are likely to:
- Give a cannabis warning for a first offence of possession – this is a written warning that does not show up on the PCN and should not show on CRB checks often carried out by employers.
- Give a Penalty Notice for Disorder – this is an on-the-spot fine of £80 for a second offence. You must pay this within 14 days or face going to court.
- Make an arrest if it is the third offence of having been caught with cannabis – this could lead to conviction in court and a criminal record.
Penalties for Drug Possession and Dealing
The penalties depend on which drug and the amount you have, and whether you are also dealing or producing the drug. The most severe penalty can be an unlimited fine and life in prison.
Active Groups Fighting UK Cannabis Laws
Here are some of the active groups seeking a change in the law here in the UK:
Note: ISMOKE is its own entity. We are not necessarily affiliated with the organisations below, and are simply providing information and links where relevant:
The ISMOKE Network consists of ISMOKE Magazine and ISMOKE Media, and we are fighting to legalise cannabis in the UK.
The UKCSC is an NGO platform founded in 2011 by citizens throughout the United Kingdom affected by and/or concerned by the current national and international war on people who use certain drugs, particularly cannabis. UKCSC unites the representatives of individual CSC’s in the UK, health workers, industry professionals, experts, entrepreneurs and activists from across not only the UK but Europe and the rest of the world.
United Patients Alliance
the UPA are fighting to change UK Cannabis Laws. Thousands of people across the UK are criminalised every day for using cannabis to treat their illnesses. Some of the most vulnerable members of our society face up to fourteen years in prison for using a medicine that is legal across North America and Europe.
Despite the wide body of clinical evidence supporting its use, the British government continues to deny patients a medication with a proven record of safety and efficacy.
The United Patients Alliance was founded to represent the interests of medical cannabis patients and to call attention to this injustice.
The well-established medical benefits of cannabis need to be recognised by the UK government, and we believe that no one should be criminalised for trying to be well.
CLEAR Cannabis Law Reform
CLEAR is the UK’s largest membership based cannabis policy group. They campaign for medicinal cannabis on prescription and regulated access for adults.
UKCIA is one of the oldest cannabis law reform websites in the UK. It was set up in 1995 right at the dawn of the internet by the remaining members of the original LCC, the old “Legalise Cannabis Campaign” who fought to change UK Cannabis Laws. The idea was to put the knowledge and experience gained in running the LCC online for people to use.
Transform is a charitable think tank that campaigns for the legal regulation of drugs both in the UK and internationally. Prohibition cannot be judged a success on any front. Handing control of the drug trade to organised criminals has had disastrous consequences across the globe. Transform works to get drugs under control by advocating for strict regulation of all aspects of the trade.
The Beckley Foundation
The Beckley Foundation is a charitable trust that promotes health-oriented, cost-effective, harm-reductive drug policy reform. It is dedicated to improving national and global drug policies through research.
Drugwise is an online drug information service aiming to provide evidence-based drug information, policy and reports. There are many robust international and internationally-relevant national reports and reviews in all these areas. The problem is that they are not all in one place.
This is why Drugwise have created I-Know, the international knowledge hub which over time will build up a library of information, policy and practice material.
Release is the national centre of expertise on drugs and drugs law. The organisation, founded in 1967, is an independent and registered charity. They provide free non-judgmental, specialist advice and information to the public and professionals on issues related to drug use and to drug laws.
Release has an excellent section on Drugs and the Law
Drug Policy Reform
The Drug Policy Reform is an All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) in the UK parliament that is composed of politicians from all political parties and also helps the fight to change UK Cannabis Laws.
The APPG for Drug Policy Reform began in January 2011 with the position of the Group being:-
- That the global war on drugs has failed
- That we will work for drug policy reform
- That the Group will draw upon available evidence and experience in order to inform our recommendations
Alliance of Cannabis Hemp Activists (ACHA)
Human Rights and Justice should be at the forefront of any campaign to repeal or reform UK cannabis laws.
We believe the possession and use of cannabis ought to be a matter of choice and not of law. We believe that the prohibition of cannabis possession, cultivation and supply to adults is unjust and unworkable. We believe that the prohibition contravenes Human Rights. We believe that the prohibition of cannabis inhibits the use of a beneficial resource. We believe ending of the prohibition of cannabis is a vital step that should be taken worldwide to benefit the people and their environment.
Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) UK
Police, prosecutors, judges and everyday people are joining together to raise awareness about the failed, dangerous and expensive ‘war on drugs’.
CISTA (Cannabis is Safer Than Alcohol)
CISTA is a new political party campaigning for a Royal Commission to review legislation in relation to the use of cannabis. Lee Harris ran for mayor through CISTA in the last election and got excellent coverage from The Guardian.
The evidence is clear. Legalising cannabis use and regulating its sale would have unequivocal economic, health and social benefits. The attempts to criminalise its use has been a catastrophic failure. It is time the UK emulated the successful implementation of legal changes across the world. If you agree we would welcome your support.
VolteFace is a policy innovation hub that explores alternatives to current public policies relating to drugs (including UK Cannabis Laws). We cultivate fresh thinking and new ideas via our online and print magazine and an ongoing programme of private and public events.
We cover the policy and politics of drugs from the perspectives of science, health, lifestyle, UK Cannabis Laws, culture, business and economics. Our ambition is to broaden the range of voices and perspectives to enliven and elevate this debate.
VolteFace works with an array of partners across civil society, business, media and government to foster public engagement, formulate new evidence-based policy ideas and as a thoughtful advocate for change. We are UK-based and focussed whilst engaging with ideas and practice from across the world.
Mr Richard Branson
British entrepreneur Richard Branson has released what he says is an embargoed report from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime that will “call on governments around the world to decriminalise drug use and possession for personal consumption for all drugs,” Branson wrote on his virgin.com blog.
Medical Marijuana is the UK’s most comprehensive online source for news, information, research, personal testaments and discussion on the medicinal benefits of cannabis, and cannabis extracts as they relate to UK Cannabis Laws
Cannabis is not recognised as having any therapeutic value under the law in England and Wales, and a person can commit any range of offences including possession and supply.
The Drug Policy Alliance
The Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) is the USA’s leading organization promoting drug policies that are grounded in science, compassion, health and human rights. They advance policies that reduce the harms of both drug use and drug prohibition, and seek solutions that promote safety while upholding the sovereignty of individuals over their own minds and bodies.
They work to ensure that the USA’s drug policies no longer arrest, incarcerate, disenfranchise and otherwise harm millions – particularly young people and people of colour who are disproportionately affected by the war on drugs.
NORML’s mission is to move public opinion sufficiently to legalize the responsible use of marijuana by adults, and to serve as an advocate for consumers to assure they have access to high quality marijuana that is safe, convenient and affordable.
NORML supports the adoption of a legally controlled market for marijuana, where consumers can buy marijuana for personal use from a safe legal source.
The Canna Law Group is a team of USA business attorneys focusing on the corporate, compliance, intellectual property, and consumer product issues impacting the cannabis industry.
This was originally a guest post in March 2016 but will be updated with other organisations – if you would like your organisation added to this list please email [email protected] with the web link and a short blurb about what you are doing for the cannabis legalisation fight here in the UK.
Hopefully with the help of the organisations above we can change UK Cannabis Laws and ensure a safer and happier future for cannabis users everywhere.