Distinguishing between drug possession for personal use and supply and trafficking is widely acknowledged as one of the most difficult and controversial issues facing drug legislators and policy makers. To address the problem, two solutions are typically enacted: the threshold scheme and the "flexible" model.
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.
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.
This paper offers a critique of the UK Government’s decision to abandon its former plans to introduce thresholds into drugs legislation via section 2 of the Drugs Act 2005. This provision had been enacted with a view to enhancing the significance of the amount of drugs an individual is caught with in prosecutions for the offence of possession with intent to supply.
All countries use legal or judicial means to grade the severity of the offence of drug possession and related actions. Frequently this is done by reference to the quantity of drugs involved in the offence, and some countries choose to indicate certain quantities as the threshold between the levels of offence or punishment. This paper examines whether or not such quantities are defined in the various EU Member States and Norway and, if so, how.