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Exploring the consequences of how Scotland interprets the UK misuse of drugs act 1971

McPhee, Iain; Hollins Martin, Caroline J; Martin, Colin R; Sneider, Anthony


Iain McPhee

Colin R Martin

Anthony Sneider


Purpose: this paper aims to critically explore the consequences of how Scotland interprets the UK Misuse of Drugs Act (1971). Scotland prosecutes 24 per cent of people found in possession of illegal drugs for drug “dealing” compared to less than 15 per cent in England and Wales and less than 16 per cent in Northern Ireland.
Design/methodology/approach: the paper provides a narrative review in the context of the background of the economic and social costs of illegal drugs in Scotland and compares this with the UK and Northern Ireland.
Findings: the explanation for such a wide disparity in numbers of dealers between these countries proposed is that the Scottish police force is comparatively more successful at persuading courts that small quantities of drugs rather than for personal use are in fact for onward sale or supply to others.
Practical implications: the police in Scotland have a network of specialist drug units in which officers make decisions in the absence of benchmarks against which to judge quantities of repossessed drugs. Taking this approach, a devolved Scotland's commitment to drug prohibition has resulted in some very curious differences in classifications of prosecutions compared to other countries.
Originality/value: the paper explores the consequences of how Scotland deals with the use of illegal drugs and the economic and social costs.


McPhee, I., Hollins Martin, C. J., Martin, C. R., & Sneider, A. (2012). Exploring the consequences of how Scotland interprets the UK misuse of drugs act 1971. Drugs and Alcohol Today, 12, 146-156.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date Sep 7, 2012
Deposit Date Aug 13, 2015
Publicly Available Date Aug 13, 2015
Print ISSN 1745-9265
Electronic ISSN 2042-8359
Publisher Emerald
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 12
Pages 146-156
Keywords Dealing; drugs; police; prosecution; scotland; trafficking; drug controls; laws and legislation;
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