30 June 2003

GHB becomes a Controlled Drug

The Home Office announced that GHB would become a controlled drug with effect from 1st July 2003. A number of other substances were also added to the list of Controlled drugs.

The ACMD had recomended that GHB be added to the list of controlled drugs and the Government had consulted on the proposals. The move came in part because of the suggested links between GHB and drug-assisted sexual assaults.

Class and Schedule:
GHB becomes a Class C, Schedule 4.i drug. This means that possession without prescription will be unlawful, and at present, the maximum penalty for possession will be two years and supply will be five years.

However, until the Criminal Justice Bill 2002 completes its passage through parliament, POSSESSION of GHB will NOT be an arrestable offence. Once this bill becomes statute, the penalty for the supply of GHB (and other class C drugs) will increase to 14 years and possession of class c drugs will become an arrestable offence.

Strange comparisons:
While the addition of GHB to the list of controlled drugs is welcome, it does highlight the inadequacies of the current classification system. Once cannabis is reclassified, it will also be a class C drug. By placing both GHB and cannabis in class C, this suggests some sort of comparabilty in risk/safety between the two substances. This is clearly erroneous, and educators will need to stress that there is no equivalence between the two substances.

The Government postings on the reclassification are at:
HOC 39 - Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 (Modification) Order 2003 (SI 2003 No.1243) - Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2003 (SI 2003 No. 1432) 303kb

Changes to the Misuse of Drugs Legislation - Control of GHB and Seven Other Substances (Correspondence)