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The Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001: A case study in poor legislative drafting

Dangerous Drugs, The misuse of drugs regulations 2001


Cathal T Gallagher


July 11, 2022


The Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001 (MDRs) create exemptions to the offences of possession, production, supply, and administration of controlled drugs (CDs), which are necessary to allow healthcare professionals to treat patients without rendering themselves liable to prosecution for various offences under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971.

As the scope of healthcare in the UK grows to include extended roles for an increasing number of professions, so must the law be amended to allow for these. The MDRs were poorly drafted in their original form, and this has been compounded by twenty years of equally poor amendments, leading to a degree of inaccuracy and ambiguity that is no longer acceptable. These regulations both lack internal consistency, and fail to align with the Human Medicines Regulations, such that neither healthcare professionals, their regulators, nor their representative bodies agree on either the spirit or letter of the law.

There are fewer than 30 active regulations in the MDRs, of which more than half contain ambiguities originating from poor drafting. While these could be clarified by a further series of amendments, the time is right to learn from previous mistakes and start over afresh.

This research was published in the Drug Science, Policy and Law Journal the definitive source of evidence-based information and comment for academics, scientists, policymakers, frontline workers and the general public on drugs and related issues

For open-access to the full report of this research, see below:

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