Spain Country Drug Report 2019

Drug laws and drug law offences

National drug laws

In Spain, consumption or minor personal possession in public places is deemed a (non-criminal) order offence, punishable by fines of EUR 601 to EUR 30 000 (Law on the Protection of Citizens’ Security (2015), Article 36). For minors, the fine can be suspended if the offender voluntarily attends treatment, rehabilitation or counselling activities.

Drug trafficking offences and penalties are defined in the Criminal Code, Articles 368-378. Penalty ranges are determined by the seriousness of the health damage associated with the drugs involved and any aggravating or mitigating circumstances, such as selling to minors or the sale of large quantities. Prison sentences ranging from 1 to 3 years can be imposed if the drugs do not cause serious harm to health (such as cannabis), and from 3 to 6 years if they do (such as heroin or cocaine). These sentences may be reduced in mitigating circumstances and increased in specified aggravating circumstances up to 18 years in prison. In all cases, a fine is also imposed and substances, instruments of crime and profits are confiscated; disqualification from professions is also an option. Both legal entities and individuals may be punished. Under Article 376, prison sentences (of up to 5 years) may be reduced if an offender who was dependent on drugs at the time of the crime successfully completes detoxification treatment. With regard to ‘cannabis social clubs’, in 2015, the Spanish Supreme Court clearly stated that ‘organised, institutionalised and persistent cultivation and distribution of cannabis among an association open to new members is considered drug trafficking’. Regional attempts to regulate these clubs have been declared unconstitutional.

New psychoactive substances are controlled by adding them to the lists of substances subject to the Law on the Protection of Citizens’ Security and the Criminal Code, as above.


Drug law offences

Drug law offence data are the foundation for monitoring drug-related crime and are also a measure of law enforcement activity and drug market dynamics; they may be used to inform policies on the implementation of drug laws and to improve strategies.

In Spain, the overwhelming majority of drug law offenders are charged with possession-related offences against the Law on the Protection of Citizens’ Security, while the remainder are charged with cultivation, preparation or manufacturing or illicit trafficking crimes under the Criminal Code. In 2017, 8 out of 10 charges were associated with cannabis.


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Methodological note: Analysis of trends is based only on those countries providing sufficient data to describe changes over the period specified. The reader should also be aware that monitoring patterns and trends in a hidden and stigmatised behaviour like drug use is both practically and methodologically challenging. For this reason, multiple sources of data are used for the purposes of analysis in this report. Caution is therefore required in interpretation, in particular when countries are compared on any single measure. Detailed information on methodology and caveats and comments on the limitations in the information set available can be found in the EMCDDA Statistical Bulletin.