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Illicit drug use in the EU: legislative approaches (11/2/2005)

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).

Illicit drug use in the EU: legislative approaches
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Page last updated: Monday, 27 June 2005