All extracts are taken from the “Safer Doors book. Published by Geddes and Grossett. Copyright laws apply.

Whilst patrolling licensed premises when open, and at the end of each session, door supervisors should actively check for any of the obvious signs that drug taking and dealing are occurring;

  • Syringes and needles (from injecting)
  • Scorched tinfoil (from smoking heroin or crack)
  • Razor blades, penknives, credit cards (from cutting drugs)
  • Straws or rolled up bank notes/paper (from snorting cocaine)
  • Small pipes (from smoking various drugs)
  • Burnt spoons/cotton wool filters (from preparing drugs for injecting)
  • Discarded citric acid or lemon juice (from heroin taking)
  • Discarded magazine paper ‘wraps’ (packaging)
  • Discarded small pieces of clingfilm (packaging)
  • Discarded small self-seal bags (packaging)
  • Cigarette ends with rolled cardboard filters (cannabis)
  • Torn cardboard or ‘Rizla’ packets (cannabis)

Drug dealers come in all shapes, sizes, colours and ages, and make it their business not to stand out or bring attention to themselves. For this reason door supervisors have to be particularly vigilant to prevent regular dealers from starting up business on their licensed premises.

Dealers tend to position themselves in the same place whenever they visit a venue to deal, so that the customers get to know where to find them. These places tend to be the darker, more secluded areas of the pub or club, usually as far away from the door staff and bar staff as possible.

They will often spend much of their time looking out for other people who might be watching them. Good dealers also sometimes use ‘runners’ and ‘minders’ to help them carry and supply the drugs, so regular short visits to a suspected dealer by another person would warrant further observations, particularly watching for any obvious passing of cash or the drugs themselves.

The local police or drugs squad officers can be called upon to assist licensed premises if the management or the door staff feel they are starting to get a problem which could ultimately cost them their licence.

The local police licensing officer will have more sympathy and respect for any licensee or manager who goes to the police for help than for one who leaves it until the police themselves discover the problem, and have to carry out a drugs raid to put a stop to it.

Close and regular co-operation between licensed premises and the police can help in the fight against drug misuse and dealing, and door supervisors have the front-line job of assisting the licensee in supervising the premises effectively.

On the subject of the misuse of illegal drugs at raves and other dance events, theHome Office’s Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugspublished a set of guidelines on the criteria for the granting of licences by local authorities. Specific recommendations included :-

  • The availability of free cold water
  • The provision of rest facilities in a cool environment
  • The monitoring of temperatures and air quality
  • The provision of information and advice on drugs
  • Compliance with a regulatory scheme for the selection, training and management of doorstaff

Further guidance was also given to licensed premises to assist them to reduce the use and sale of illegal drugs on those premises. It recommended that licensees, managers and/or organisers should :-

  • ensure that the outer clothing, pockets and bags of those entering are searched by a trained venue staff member of the same sex in cases where there is reasonable suspicion that drugs are being carried;
  • put up a clearly visible notice advising those attending that it is a condition of entry that customers agree to being searched and that the police will be informed if anyone is found in possession of controlled substances or weapons;
  • ensure security arrangements are sufficient to discourage the sale and consumption of drugs (eg have venue staff located in the toilet area or make regular checks there and CCTV cameras around the venue)
  • exclude customers known to have been previously convicted of committing criminal offences relating to drugs;
  • liaise with the police to consider what steps might be taken to assist with surveillance, these might include installing video surveillance equipment to monitor activity;
  • seek advice of the police on procedures for keeping records of incidents and making such records available for inspection (eg nature of incident to be recorded, all incidents of specific types such as those involving disorder, violence, drug use, drug dealing, other crime, ill health etc, and the specific information required);
  • policies to be developed by owners/managers/organisers and the police on action to be taken concerning storage and disposal/transfer of confiscated drugs, and procedures towards individuals who commit criminal offences;
  • liaise with local drug agencies to develop a drugs prevention strategy for the venue;
  • display posters and/or distribute leaflets and other information about the effects and dangers of and the laws in relation to drugs;
  • deal with customers who become ill and take appropriate action, liaising between customers and staff over problems, conflicts or drug dealing on the premises;
  • provide adequate first aid facilities, having at least two trained first-aiders on the premises at all times during the event.

Drugs offences are covered by the same statute laws in Scotland as they are in England and Wales, not as crimes under common law, and so door stewards do not have any specific statutory powers of arrest for these matters. Because of the seriousness of these types of offences, however, stewards may revert back to their common law powers of arrest to deal with these types of situations, and so can deal with drugs incidents/finds in the same way as door supervisors in England and Wales do.

Misuse of Drugs Act 1971

The Misuse of Drugs Act of 1971 was introduced by Reginald Maulding and passed by the Parliament of the United Kingdom. The Act enforces the United Kingdom’s treaty commitments under several international and United Nations narcotic and psychotropic drug conventions, including the United Nations Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances.

Ironically the Misuse of Drugs Act does not control the use of drugs. The Act makes it illegal to:

  • Possess a controlled drug unlawfully. This usually means without a prescription.
  • Possess a controlled drug with intent to traffic
  • Supply or offer to supply a controlled drug for a charge or free
  • Allow premises you occupy or manage to be used unlawfully to manufacture or supply a controlled drug.

Interpretation of these scenarios relies heavily upon the definition of “controlled drug” under the Act.

How Does the Misuse of Drugs Act Work?

The Act outlines four classes of controlled substances, including a temporary class, with varying penalties for possession, trafficking and production. Drugs are classified according to their current misuse, possible future misuse, and the harm caused to society by misuse. A drug’s classification can be changed by the Secretary of State on recommendation from the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs.

Class A drugs are considered the most dangerous and include heroin, cocaine, crack, MDMA, LSD, and psilocybin mushrooms. Codeine and amphetamines are considered Class B drugs, and GHB, many tranquilizers, and anabolic steroids are considered Class C drugs.

Alcohol and tobacco are not controlled under the Misuse of Drugs Act of 1971.

The Home Secretary plays a key role in the implementation of the Misuse of Drugs Act. They are in charge of licensing controlled substances for prescription or other lawful uses.

Is the Misuse of Drugs Act Effective?

Some have argued that the Act’s classification system does not take into proper account the relative dangers of the drug addressed. This argument has often been cited by those arguing for the reclassification of cannabis and ecstasy. Cannabis was notably moved from Class B to Class C in 2004 and then back to Class B in 2009 against the advice of the Advisory Council.

According to a study in 2017, overall drug use in the UK has declined since 2007.

What Other Laws Control the Use of Drugs in the UK?

The Misuse of Drugs Act of 1971 was proceeded by The Medicines Act, which primarily addressed prescription laws, quality control, and advertising restrictions. The Misuse Act has been amended several times to address new types of drugs and social/medical issues such as the medicinal use of cannabis. The Psychoactive Substance Act was passed in 2016 to address substances that “stimulate or depress the central nervous system” that are not addressed under the Misuse of Drugs Act.