The first steps towards legal control were taken with the introduction of the 1868 Pharmacy Act, which gave pharmacists a monopoly over the distribution of opium and morphine derivatives.
The Drug Harm Index aims to measure the harmful impact of illegal drug use. The harms it takes into account include drug-related crime, community perceptions of drug problems, drug nuisance, and the various health consequences that arise from drug abuse (e.g. HIV, overdoses, deaths). It is used by the British government to assess the effectiveness of its drug strategies.
Offenders who use illegal drugs are over twice as likely to be arrested by the police than non users.
The maximum penalty for supplying, dealing, producing (including cultivating) or trafficking a Class C substance is 14 years imprisonment. This includes cannabis, GHB (Gamma Hydroxybutyrate, a substance in liquid or solid form which has euphoric and relaxing effects) and Valium. The minimum penalty for possessing a Class C drug is two years imprisonment.
Despite concerns that reclassifying cannabis would lead to an increase in its use, its consumption has in fact continued to fall since 2016/17.
Sweden has a tougher stance on drugs than the UK, whilst the Netherlands have more liberal policies. Both countries have lower rates of problematic drug use (that is, use which is associated with crime, disease, death and other problems) than the UK.