Legal guide: Pubs and drugs

By Poppleston Allen

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Illegal drug trade Toilet Drug

Licensees must be on alert for any drug dealing or use in their pub
Licensees must be on alert for any drug dealing or use in their pub
Pubs open their doors and welcome people in but, unfortunately, some of those passing through will be carrying drugs. Illegal drugs are a danger to your premises licence and reputation. Our legal guide will help identify the issues involved.

What to look for:

1. Preventing drug misuse & dealing

  • Monitor CCTV. Extend it if you suspect people are in corners not covered by CCTV and acting furtively.
  • Train your staff to look for the signs.
  • Keep your pub premises tidy, regularly collect empties and carry out toilet checks.
  • Speak to the police and get their guidance. The Home Office guide states that the police and relevant authorities should work with premises and not against licensees. 
  • If you suspect somebody is carrying illegal drugs then refuse them admission, or ask them to submit to being searched. If they refuse then refuse to admit them. If they allow you to search them, remember you can only carry out a pat down search and look in bags; get them to empty their pockets. If you are still not satisfied then call the police, but do not detain them. They must be allowed to leave if they wish to do so; otherwise, you will be in trouble.

2. Record your findings

  • Record in a book where the drugs are found and in what circumstances. Include a description and quantity of the drugs. The person who found the drugs should sign the book.
  • Place the drugs in a sealed plastic bag and store them in your safe.
  • Call the police. Do not take the drugs to the police station as it could end up as the worst day of your life!

3. The signs

  • Syringes — do not pick them up; wear gloves and use a sharps box.
  • Folded paper or packets; discarded sweet wrappers in the toilet areas.
  • Drinking straws in the toilets areas.
  • White powder on flat surfaces, including toilets; or areas that look like they have been wiped clean.
  • Burnt tin foil or spoons.
  • Torn up beer mats or cigarette packets, or bits of discarded cardboard, which might perhaps have been used for ‘roaches’. 
  • Payment with notes that have been tightly rolled and/or traces of white powder upon the notes. 
  • Foam stuffing taken from the premises furniture.

4. Physical signs of drug use

  • Dilated pupils.
  • Excessive sniffing, dripping nose, watering or red eyes.
  • Cold symptoms following a visit to the toilets, car park or garden. 
  • Powder around the nose.
  • Excessive giggling and talking. 
  • Extremely dopey; vacant staring; sleepy euphoria.
  • Non-stop movement or dancing.
  • Excessive soft-drink consumption.
  • Unexplained crying/feeling of fear.

5. Signs of dealing

  • An individual is met by a stream of people who talk for short periods.
  • Frequent trips to the toilet, garden or car park.
  • Exchanges of small items or cash.
  • Furtive behaviour, people huddled in corners and whispering.

Useful guides
■ Home Office guides — Safer Clubbing or the more recent guide, Safer Nightlife​. These mainly relate to clubs, but parallels can be drawn for pubs.
■ British Beer & Pub Association - Drugs & Pubs: A Guide for Licensees

For a list of drugs, what they look like and the signs of what to look for, visit the Poppleston Allen website

Related topics Licensing law

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