The 2001 Regulations determine in what circumstances it is lawful to possess, supply, produce, export and import controlled drugs. The authorised scope of activity will depend on the schedule to which the controlled drug is assigned. There are five schedules. Schedule 1 contains those drugs that are considered to have little or no therapeutic value and are subjected to the most restrictive control. Schedule 5 contains drugs that are considered to have therapeutic value and are commonly available as over the counter medicines.
Drugs belonging to this schedule are thought to have no therapeutic value and therefore cannot be lawfully possessed or prescribed. These include LSD, MDMA (ecstasy). Schedule 1 drugs may be used for the purposes of research but a Home Office licence is required.
Schedule 2 & 3
The drugs in these schedules can be prescribed and therefore legally possessed and supplied by pharmacists and doctors. They can also be possessed lawfully by anyone who has a prescription. It is an offence contrary to the 1971 Act to possess any drug belonging to Schedule 2 or 3 without prescription or lawful authority. Examples of schedule 2 drugs are methadone and diamorphine (heroin), and cannabis (since November 2018). Schedule 3 drugs include subutex and most of the barbiturate family.
The difference between Schedule 2 and Schedule 3 drugs is limited to the application of the 2001 Regulations concerning record keeping and storage requirements in respect of schedule 2 drugs.
Schedule 4 (i) & (ii)
Schedule 4 was divided into two parts by the 2001 Regulations [as amended by the Misuse of Drugs (Amendment No. 2) Regulations 2012]
Schedule 4(i) controls most of the benzodiazepines. Schedule 4(i) drugs can only be lawfully possessed under prescription. Otherwise, possession is an offence under the 1971 Act.
Schedule 4(ii) drugs can be possessed as long as they are clearly for personal use. Drugs in this schedule can also be imported or exported for personal use where a person himself carries out that importation or exportation. The most common example of a schedule 4(ii) drug is steroids.
Schedule 5 drugs are sold over the counter and can be legally possessed without a prescription.