Supplying or offering to supply a controlled drug / Possession of a controlled drug with intent to supply it to another

Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 s.4(3), Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, s.5(3)
Effective from: 27 February 2012

Triable either way unless the defendant could receive the minimum sentence of seven years for a third drug trafficking offence under section 110 Powers of Criminal Courts (Sentencing) Act 2000 in which case the offence is triable only on indictment.

Class A

Maximum: Life imprisonment

Offence range: Community order – 16 years’ custody

A class A offence is a drug trafficking offence for the purpose of imposing a minimum sentence under section 110 Powers of Criminal Courts (Sentencing) Act 2000

Class B

Maximum: 14 years’ custody and/or unlimited fine

Offence range: Fine – 10 years’ custody

Class C

Maximum: 14 years’ custody and/or unlimited fine

Offence range: Fine – 8 years’ custody

User guide for this offence

Step 1 – Determining the offence category

The court should determine the offender’s culpability (role) and the harm caused (quantity/type of offender) with reference to the lists below.

In assessing culpability, the sentencer should weigh up all the factors of the case to determine role. Where there are characteristics present which fall under different role categories, the court should balance these characteristics to reach a fair assessment of the offender’s culpability.In assessing harm, quantity is determined by the weight of the product. Purity is not taken into account at step 1 but is dealt with at step 2. Where the offence is street dealing or supply of drugs in prison by a prison employee, the quantity of the product is less indicative of the harm caused and therefore the starting point is not based on quantity.

Where the operation is on the most serious and commercial scale, involving a quantity of drugs significantly higher than category 1, sentences of 20 years and above may be appropriate, depending on the role of the offender.

Culpability demonstrated by offender’s role

One or more of these characteristics may demonstrate the offender’s role. These lists are not exhaustive.


  • directing or organising buying and selling on a commercial scale;
  • substantial links to, and influence on, others in a chain;
  • close links to original source;
  • expectation of substantial financial gain;
  • uses business as cover;
  • abuses a position of trust or responsibility, for example prison employee, medical professional.


  • operational or management function within a chain;
  • involves others in the operation whether by pressure, influence, intimidation or reward;
  • motivated by financial or other advantage, whether or not operating alone;
  • some awareness and understanding of scale of operation;
  • supply, other than by a person in a position of responsibility, to a prisoner for gain without coercion.

LESSER role:

  • performs a limited function under direction;
  • engaged by pressure, coercion, intimidation;
  • involvement through naivety/exploitation;
  • no influence on those above in a chain;
  • very little, if any, awareness or understanding of the scale of operation;
  • if own operation, absence of any financial gain, for example joint purchase for no profit, or sharing minimal quantity between peers on non-commercial basis.

Category of harm Indicative quantity of drug concerned (upon which the starting point is based):

Category 1

  • heroin, cocaine – 5kg;
  • ecstasy – 10,000 tablets;
  • LSD – 250,000 squares;
  • amphetamine – 20kg;
  • cannabis – 200kg;
  • ketamine – 5kg.

Category 2

  • heroin, cocaine – 1kg;
  • ecstasy – 2,000 tablets;
  • LSD – 25,000 squares;
  • amphetamine – 4kg;
  • cannabis – 40kg;
  • ketamine – 1kg.

Category 3

Where the offence is selling directly to users [1] (‘street dealing’), the starting point is not based on a quantity,


where the offence is supply of drugs in prison by a prison employee, the starting point is not based on a quantity – see shaded box above,


  • heroin, cocaine – 150g;
  • ecstasy – 300 tablets;
  • LSD – 2,500 squares;
  • amphetamine – 750g;
  • cannabis – 6kg;
  • ketamine – 150g.

Category 4

  • heroin, cocaine – 5g;
  • ecstasy – 20 tablets;
  • LSD – 170 squares;
  • amphetamine – 20g;
  • cannabis – 100g;
  • ketamine – 5g;


where the offence is selling directly to users* (‘street dealing’) the starting point is not based on quantity – go to category 3.  

[1] Including test purchase officers