A wider trend for drug law reform is arising out of a felt need to make legislation more effective and more humane. Within this trend, a number of countries have considered decriminalisation or depenalisation models and many have, at least initially, considered threshold quantities as a good way to distinguish between what is possession and what is supply or trafficking and as a means to ensure that the sentences imposed are proportionate to the harmfulness of the offence.
Drug users from Kachin came together last November to discuss the challenges and difficulties they experience and identify possible solutions to their problems. Read their statement and recommendations.
The issue of decriminalizing illicit drugs is hotly debated, but is rarely subject to evidence-based analysis. This paper examines the case of Portugal, a nation that decriminalized the use and possession of all illicit drugs on 1 July 2001. Drawing upon independent evaluations and interviews conducted with 13 key stakeholders in 2007 and 2009, it critically analyses the criminal justice and health impacts against trends from neighbouring Spain and Italy. It concludes that contrary to predictions, the Portuguese decriminalization did not lead to major increases in drug use. Indeed, evidence indicates reductions in problematic use, drug-related harms and criminal justice overcrowding. The article discusses these developments in the context of drug law debates and criminological discussions on late modern governance.
Many countries continue to incarcerate and criminalise people for possession or use of drugs, with criminalisation alone undermining employment, education and housing opportunities. In addition, many people who use drugs are often subject to human rights abuses by the state in jurisdictions which continue to criminalise them. The continued targeting of this group has not only a negative impact on the individuals in question, but their families and broader society as a whole.
Uruguay’s senate voted today (10 December) to approve the world’s first national legal framework regulating the cultivation, trade and consumption of cannabis for medical, industrial as well as recreational purposes.
The academic journal Nueva Sociedad recently released an issue to promote the debate in Latin America on drug policy reform. TNI contributed with the paper "Drug policy reform in practice: Experiences with alternatives in Europe and the US".
The primary objective of this paper is to evaluate whether the drug conventions permit states to experiment with alternatives to the punitive prohibitionist policies that have typified the global approach to combating the negative effects of personal drug use. Because harm minimization encompasses most policies providing alternatives to punitive prohibition, the analysis that follows will focus on comparing the two strategies, in an effort to frame the current debate on drug policy.
The drug trade has increased globally in intensity and reach, and substance abuse in South Africa has escalated rapidly. Drug misuse is a major social, legal and public health challenge despite the war on drugs, in which the USA has a disproportionate influence. Why this lack of progress and what can be done about it?
Cannabis was condemned by the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs as a psychoactive drug with “particularly dangerous properties” and hardly any therapeutic value. Ever since, an increasing number of countries have shown discomfort with the treaty regime’s strictures through soft defections, stretching its legal flexibility to sometimes questionable limits.
On July 1, 2001, a nationwide law in Portugal took effect that decriminalized all drugs, including cocaine and heroin. Under the new legal framework, all drugs were “decriminalized,” not “legalized.” Drug possession for personal use and drug usage itself are still legally prohibited, but violations of those prohibitions are deemed to be exclusively administrative violations and are removed completely from the criminal realm.
Maria Moreira, Brendan Hughes, Claudia Costa Storti, Frank Zobel
23 June 2011
This profile describes the national drug policy of Portugal, a policy that has attracted significant attention recently in the media and in policy debates. It considers national strategies and action plans, the legal context within which they operate and the public funds spent, or committed, to resource them. It also describes the political bodies and mechanisms set up to coordinate the response to the multi-faceted problem and the systems of evaluation that may help to improve future policy. The profile puts this information in context by outlining the size, wealth and economic situation of the country as a whole, as well as the historical development of the current policy.
In August 2009, Mexico adopted a new law against small-scale drug dealing, which introduces some significant advances in key subjects, such as the recognising of and distinguishing between user, drug addict and dealer. However it still has significant flaws in continuing to treat demand and supply of drugs as a criminal and market phenomenon that are likely to undermine its successful application.
This paper discusses the case for decriminalization of cannabis use, based on a careful weighting of the currently available evidence regarding advantages and risks of such a policy change. The issue of decriminalization is a response to the widespread use of cannabis in spite of its current illegal status; that is, as a consequence of the perceived ineffectiveness of the traditional prohibition of cannabis use.
This paper analyses scientific and grey literature that examines the consequences of drug law changes, and describes their approach and methodologies. A multi-part search strategy identified 36 primary studies coming from Europe, North America and Australia, which were then categorised by the type of legal change they examined; changes to laws addressing illegal use and possession, changes in laws regulating legal use and possession, and enforcement strategies of existing laws such as police crackdowns and employee drug testing.
Polish law provides punishment for possession of narcotic drugs. It is a controversial issue whether punishing for possession of any amount of drugs is a right thing to do. Regardless of one’s opinion, it is worth being aware of the consequences of the adopted legal solutions. In spite of the high cost, the enforcement of the Act does not result in mitigating drug problems in Poland, such as reduction of drug trafficking or “deterring” their potential users.
This paper provides a framework for understanding what decriminalization means within the broader context of depenalization. To illustrate these concepts, it provides a detailed discussion of a range of depenalization policies observed in developed countries, highlighting for each country a distinct issue that influences how the policy is implemented and its potential impact.