Psychedelics Regulation in the UK and EU: United Kingdom

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United Kingdom (UK)

1) Psychoactive Substances Legislation

The Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 (MODA) implements into domestic law the UK’s treaty commitments under the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, the Convention on Psychotropic Substances, and the United Nations Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances.

MODA presents a list of drugs which are subject to narcotic control. MODA creates three classes of controlled substances, A, B, and C, (Class A being the most serious) and ranges of penalties for illegal or unlicensed possession and possession with intent to supply. This list within each class can be amended by order, so the government can list new drugs and upgrade, downgrade or delist previously controlled drugs without the need for formal legislation.

MODA is supplemented by The Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001 (MDR). MDR sets out the licensing regime for production, possession and supply of substances classified under MODA. A licence, made available under MDR would be required to legally possess, manufacture and research a psychoactive substance. The licencing regime would be rigorous and the application for such a licence would likely be lengthy and expensive. There would need to be a well-defined business or research model presented, with Standard Operation Procedures (SOPs) and security plans established.

2) Analogue Compounds Legislation

The Psychoactive Substances Act 2016 was introduced by the UK government with the intention to restrict a new class of psychoactive substances and analogue compounds often referred to as "legal highs". The Act was introduced following a recommendation by the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs which urged the government to “explore the possibility of new legislation similar to the Analogue Act (1986) used in the USA”.

The act makes it an offence to produce, supply, offer to supply, possess with intent to supply, possess on custodial premises, import or export psychoactive substances. This is defined as any substance intended for human consumption that is capable of producing a psychoactive effect.

The Act specifically excludes legitimate substances, such as food, alcohol, tobacco, nicotine, caffeine and medical products from the scope of the offence, as well as controlled drugs, which continue to be regulated by the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971.

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