Is Weed/Marijuana/Cannabis legal in Scotland?

Written by Chris Thornton | 13th of May 2024
Is weed legal in Scotland?

No - cannabis is illegal in Scotland; anyone using the drug recreationally is breaking the law.

Cannabis is a highly debated topic, and its legality varies worldwide. In Scotland, the laws surrounding cannabis use have undergone changes in recent years, leading to confusion around its legality.

Let's look at cannabis use in Scotland.

What is cannabis?

Cannabis, also known as marijuana and "weed" in Scotland, is a drug derived from a hemp plant named "Cannabis sativa". The drug is illegal due to its high THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) content. This potent, intoxicating psychoactive substance gives feelings of relaxation and amusement but often intense pangs of paranoia too.

The most common way to use cannabis is by rolling it into a joint with cigarette papers or using a bong to vaporise the drug. Some people add the drug to "edibles" such as cakes and biscuits.

Drug laws in Scotland

Cannabis is a class B drug in Scotland and is categorised in the same group as amphetamines and ketamine. Cannabis is the most popular recreational drug in Scotland.

The Scottish government has taken a more progressive approach to cannabis compared to the rest of the UK, but it remains illegal for recreational use. The Scottish government has called for more research and discussions on the medical and recreational use of cannabis.

The Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 includes laws about cannabis.

If you are caught possessing cannabis, you will be arrested, and the drug seized and destroyed. The punishment for cannabis possession is severe, with a maximum penalty of 5 years imprisonment and a fine of £2,500. Supplying or producing the drug increases the prison time to 14 years.

Drug Classes in Scotland:

Here are the drug classes currently used in Scotland and some drugs in each category. Class A contains the most dangerous and illegal drugs.

  • Class A - LSD, ecstasy, cocaine, heroin.

  • Class B - Cannabis, speed, ketamine, mephedrone and some amphetamines.

  • Class C - GHB, anabolic steroids and some tranquilisers.

Cannabis was reduced to a class C drug in 2004 but returned to class B in 2009.

How is cannabis use seen in Scotland?

There is a wide range of perspectives on cannabis use in Scotland, but most fit into two categories - those who smoke it and those who don't.

  • Cannabis users see it as a harmless drug to help them relax and unwind from the day's stresses. It usually is smoked behind closed doors. Unfortunately, many users are unaware of their drug addiction to cannabis and its long-lasting effects on their brains.

  • Non-users often frown upon cannabis smokers. They are seen as lazy, weak-minded and perceived as spending most of their time at home smoking the drug. Smoking cannabis in the presence of children is highly frowned upon.

I have lived a pretty sheltered life and have little experience with drug abuse. I have never tried cannabis or any other illegal drug. It was endemic at the T in the Park music festival when I visited in the late 90s and early 00s.

Despite many areas of Scotland looking quaint and innocent, there is a vibrant black market for illegal drugs, even within the quiet fishing villages along the coast.

A recent poll in October 2021 revealed that 66% of respondents favoured decriminalising those possessing small amounts of cannabis for personal use - a big shift in public opinion. Some politicians and celebrities have come out in favour of cannabis legalisation - complete legalisation of cannabis in Scotland has achieved high polling of 47% in the past.

Localised cannabis slang in Scotland

Cannabis is known as "weed" in most areas of Scotland, but also referred to by many other names:

  • Dope

  • Hash/hashish

  • Green

  • Ganja/Ganj

  • Bifter

  • Doobson

  • Coonsil

  • Pot

  • Grass

  • Wacky baccy

  • Spliff (a joint)

When someone inhales too much cannabis, they can go pale, dizzy and feel unwell. This is called a "whitey".

Drug addiction in Scotland

Cannabis addiction is a problem in Scotland due to its mental health effects. Long-term use can exacerbate existing conditions or even create new issues that didn't exist before addiction.

Tolerance increase to the effects of cannabis can lead abusers to seek harder drugs to achieve the same result - cannabis can be a gateway drug.

Withdrawal symptoms can also be a problem for long-time cannabis addicts, leading to:

  • Trouble sleeping.

  • Nightmares and vivid dreams.

  • Problems concentrating.

  • Cravings.

  • Irritability.

  • Depression.

Cannabis FAQs in Scotland

Here are some frequently asked questions about cannabis use in Scotland.

Is medical cannabis legal in Scotland?

Yes, but only if prescribed by a specialist clinician listed on the "Specialist Register of the General Medical Council". GP Doctors cannot prescribe cannabis medical products directly.

Amendments to drug legislation in 2018 introduced a new definition:

"Cannabis-based products for medicinal use in humans".

Users of prescribed products must be able to show proof if challenged by a police officer. Some rare forms of childhood epilepsy have been treated with medical cannabis. Chronic pain is also said to be alleviated via cannabis treatment.

Medicinal cannabis. The drug cannabis is illegal in Scotland.
Medical cannabis can be prescribed by a specialist clinician.

Are CBD products legal in Scotland?

It is legal to produce, use and sell CBD (Cannabidiol) products in Scotland and the wider United Kingdom. Doctors can prescribe CBD products to help with certain conditions. Products commonly available are:

  • CBD oil.

  • CBD gummies.

  • CBD vape juices.

  • CBD skincare products.

  • CBD edibles.

Only CBD products with a meagre amount of THC are legal (less than 0.2%); you cannot get "high" or addicted to CBD.

Is it legal to grow cannabis in Scotland?

No, growing cannabis is highly illegal in Scotland and can result in severe penalties, including imprisonment. It is not true that you can grow your own cannabis plants for personal use.

Is smoking cannabis in public acceptable?

No, but it doesn't stop people from doing it. Quite often, at a music event, public park or walking past tenement flats in cities, you will get a highly recognisable waft of cannabis. Some people can be pretty brazen with their lawbreaking despite the risks of arrest and fines.

Should I purchase cannabis in Scotland?

Definitely not. Not only is the drug highly illegal, but you also do not know the provenance of the end product and how sanitary it has been produced or if it has been combined with other drugs or chemicals to bulk it out.

Recreational cannabis plant. Medical Marijuana legal. Illegal to smoke weed.
It is illegal to grow cannabis in Scotland.

Key information on cannabis in Scotland

  • Cannabis is illegal in Scotland.

  • Cannabis comes from a hemp plant named "Cannabis sativa".

  • THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) is the psychoactive substance in cannabis.

  • Cannabis is a Class B drug in Scotland.

  • Cannabis is illegal to possess, produce or distribute.

  • Prison sentences of 5 to 14 years and unlimited fines are possible under current laws.

  • CBD products are legal, provided THC content is less than 0.2%.

Conclusion - cannabis is illegal in Scotland

So there we have it, cannabis is illegal in Scotland. You should not buy, possess, or consume it anywhere in Scotland or risk a criminal record, jail time and unlimited fine. Be very aware of this if travelling from a country or US state that has legalised the drug; dispose of the drug before you arrive in Scotland or the UK.

All information was correct at the time of writing, please check things like entry costs and opening times before you arrive.

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