This paper analyses primary studies that examine the consequences of drug law changes, and describes their approach and methodologies. They were categorised as changes to laws addressing illegal use and possession, changes in laws regulating legal use and possession, and enforcement strategies of existing laws. Across these studies, the authors identify five types of evaluation questions and indicators, three types of data sets, and two study designs that have been used. Evaluations may highlight the intended and unintended effects of a legal change, but there can also be unexpected effects, and the full picture will describe all of these. Evaluations should not be taken as proof that one law is better than another; an objective and authoritative study result will be obtained by good design, questions and indicators that reflect a wide variety of concerns, and appropriate data sets.
This chapter provides a brief history of controls on cannabis, and analyses a series of recent government enquiries that have informed legislative reform, particularly in Europe. European countries’ laws or prosecution policies seem to be broadly in accord with these government enquiries. Nonetheless, more liberal positions have attracted some concerns, expressed in particular at UN level, on the grounds that leniency on cannabis can endanger the overall international effort against drugs. Accordingly, the latest developments in some countries seem to tip the balance back towards a new attention on restrictive measures.
This table, a working document, lists approximately 500 substances controlled by the EU Member States and Norway, and aims to provide an at-a-glance guide as to where and if the substance is controlled within each country's legal system. Its Excel format allows use of the "Find" function to search quickly for substance names, and the Zoom and Split Screen functions may also facilitate reading this large table.
This paper was compiled by the EMCDDA in cooperation with leading experts in the field. It offers an overview of the current legal provisions on the use and possession of drugs for personal use in the EU Member States. The first part of the study focuses on the international legal framework governing drug use and possession; the second part offers a summary of the various legal approaches to the personal use of drugs at national level. These range from tolerance of the use of certain drugs to penal sanctions for any use of any substance. Also explored are the concepts of decriminalisation and depenalisation of drug use as well as the relationship between penal and health interventions.
The study concludes that, in many countries, personal use of illicit drugs is considered a relatively minor offence, incompatible with custodial sanctions. However, it would be a mistake to interpret this as a ‘relaxation’ or a ‘softening’ of drug laws in the EU. And many of the 10 new EU Member States still consider use or possession for personal use as a criminal offence punishable by sanctions of ‘deprivation of liberty’ (e.g. imprisonment).
This thematic paper, contributing to the European Commission's evaluation of the EU Action Plan 2000-2004, looks at the extent to which legislative attention was paid in the period to actions considered by Member States to be of high priority at the outset of the strategy and action plan. Over 250 legal texts were analysed and compared with actions specified in the plan. A considerable number of legal changes in this period were attributed to the action ‘to develop outreach work and treatment for users’ and there was a clear acknowledgement of the need for a stable legal basis for substitution treatment, following its general formalisation EU-wide in the 1990s. A further trend noted was the reduction of prosecution or maximum sentences for drug users, as Member States aim to resolve cases through alternatives such as treatment rather than via the criminal justice system. A number of countries increased criminal punishment for driving following consumption of illegal drugs.
Drug use is directly or indirectly prohibited in all EU countries – except for in medical or scientific circumstances – and punishment for offences varies from administrative to penal, depending on the country. This thematic paper for the Commission's evaluation of the EU Action Plan analyses current trends in the EU Member States in legal responses targeting drug-using offenders.
Written to contribute to the European Commission's Communication on evaluation of the EU Action Plan, this paper highlights evidence of legislative activity related to new synthetic drugs as an indicator of Member States’ commitment to the issue. It also examines to what extent legal activity may be attributed to the EU action plan on drugs. Among others, the paper describes the wide variety of procedures that individual Member States are obliged to follow in order to control a new substance. These vary greatly between countries with the result that some simply cannot react as fast as others. This, in turn, may weaken the rationale of a fast, pan-European response to new synthetic drugs, and the effectiveness of the 1997 Joint action.
One of the targets of the EU action plan is ‘to reduce significantly over five years the prevalence of drug use, as well as new recruitment to it, particularly among young people under 18 years of age’. In total there are eight references to young people in the plan covering areas such as demand reduction, prevention of drug use and drug-related crime. This thematic paper identifies the legal activity undertaken by the EU Member States between 1999 and 2004 and how it might be attributed to, or have been made in the spirit of, references to young people in the plan.
Overall, a total of 22 laws, passed by 11 Member States during the period in question, were found to address issues named in the plan that related to young people. No less than 10 countries passed legislation providing alternatives to prison, especially for young drug offenders, although five of these laws focused primarily on adults. Six Member States passed laws aiming to reduce the prevalence of drug use among young people.
The study notes that, despite several issues relating to young people in the plan, comparatively little legislative attention appeared to be given to them by the end of the period in question, although numerous non-legislative actions (e.g. educational or training programmes) may have been undertaken.
This study aims to give a descriptive overview of the various legal mechanisms used to sanction this phenomenon - whether provisions exist in drug control laws or road traffic laws, the substances addressed, the status and levels of penalties, any levels of tolerance, and whether drivers can be stopped for tests at any time or if the police require some form of suspicion beforehand. (Version 2 - changes concerning Austria and Portugal)
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.
This analysis describes and compares the different substances often referred to as "medicinal cannabis" and their methods of administration, as well as the various methods and levels of permission and control under international, EU and national legislation. It also looks at current practice in the various countries of the EU and Norway.
In the last year, there has been decriminalisation of all drug use in Portugal, a Policy Note in Belgium to decriminalise cannabis possession, and the start of the process to downgrade the offence of cannabis possession in the UK. This brief report analyses the similarities and differences in legal attitudes to drug use and possession across Europe in light of the recent changes.
This EMCDDA publication details research carried out in 2000 on the actual implementation of the drug laws by the police, prosecution and courts in the EU countries. For purchase of the full publication, please consult the publications infopoint ordering details.
This short report undertakes a comparison between the national interventions in the area of substitution treatment with classified substances, and the legal boundaries posed by the international Conventions.