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Drug policy and law

Definitions of a drug policy range from 'all activities related to illicit drugs' to 'a set of principles or an ideology that directs public action in this field (e.g. war on drugs, harm reduction)'. To prevent too broad or too restrictive an approach we will use an adaptation of Kilpatrick’s definition of public policies: 'A system of laws, regulatory measures, courses of action and funding priorities concerning (illicit) psychoactive drugs and promulgated by a governmental entity or its representatives' (1).

In this section you can learn about:

Strategies and action plans

  • Which countries have strategies and/or action plans?
  • What is their scope? Do they also address licit drugs?
  • Are they evaluated?

Drug legislation

  • Which countries have decriminalised personal possession of drugs?
  • Is cannabis viewed differently from other drugs?
  •  How to distinguish between use and supply?
  •  What's the most likely penalty for a drug offence?

Public expenditure

  • How do countries calculate public expenditure on drug issues?
  • Which country spends the most to address its drug problems?


The publications below are particularly focused on certain aspects of policy, law or strategy. In addition to these publications, the EMCDDA's annual report presents a yearly overview of the policies and law situation throughout Europe (usually in chapter 1).

About the EMCDDA

The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) is the reference point on drugs and drug addiction information in Europe. Inaugurated in Lisbon in 1995, it is one of the EU's decentralised agencies. Read more >>

Contact us

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1249-289 Lisbon
Tel. (351) 211 21 02 00
Fax (351) 218 13 17 11

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Page last updated: Tuesday, 16 July 2013