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Country Profile - Hungary

Development of legislation
Controlled substances
Drug use and possession
Trafficking and drug-related crime
Prevention, care and treatment
Money laundering and confiscation
New developments

Development of Legislation

Unauthorized handling of narcotic drugs has been regarded as a criminal offence in Hungary since as early as 1930. However, until the beginning of the 90’s, drug abuse and drug-related crime was not a major problem. After the political change in 1989, there were three major amendments of drug-related regulations of the Hungarian Criminal Code (HCC): in 1993, in 1999 and in 2003.

The legislative changes in 1993 introduced a “compromise-model”, which for the first time made a clear distinction between criminals trafficking in drugs and persons who just acquire or possess the drugs. The sanctions of sale or trafficking in drugs became stricter and at the same time those acquiring and possessing the drugs were given the possibility to opt for treatment instead of punishment.

In 1999 a completely different approach was taken: the “zero-tolerance” model was introduced. The aim of the legislation was to move towards the “drug-free society”, and therefore the sanctions towards consumers became stricter (it was the first time when the term “consumer” was introduced into the legislation). At the same time the treatment option was substantially limited: it became only available for addicts, not for non-addict consumers. This legislation was in force for three years, but did not satisfy the expectations: following a detailed scientific monitoring and evaluation of the change, it was concluded that the statistics of drug consumption and of drug-related crimes did not take a turn for the better.

The drug-related sections of the HCC were last amended in 2003. This amendment was based on the idea that both demand and supply has to be reduced, and this needs the more differentiated approach towards consumers, where prevention, treatment and the means of criminal law have to be jointly used. The HCC was re-organised into sections covering possession, trafficking, minors, addicts, exemptions from punishment, and precursors.  The amendment introduced more detailed provisions (lower maximum sentences if the offender is an addict, detailed and differentiated regulations on drug-related crimes if persons under 18 years are involved), and most importantly, made the treatment option again available both for consumers and addicts.  It also removed the “consumption” as a specific offence – though in an indirect way consumption remains punishable, as possessing and acquiring drugs is still an offence.

Controlled substances

The list of controlled substances is found in three major laws:

-        4/1980. (VI. 24.) Decree of the Minister of Health and the Minister of Internal Affairs on the production, trafficking, import, export, storage and use of psychotropic substances (including national psychotropic lists). Annex I. lists psychotropic substances that can only be used for scientific purposes; Annexes II.-III.-IV. list substances that can be used for medicinal purposes.

-        1/1968. (V. 12.) Decree of the Minister of Internal Affairs and the Minister of Health on the production, trafficking, import, export, storage and use of narcotic substances (including national lists of narcotic drugs). Annex I. lists the narcotic substances contained in the UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs (New York, 1961); Annex II. lists those substances that are not listed in the Convention but are regarded controlled substances in Hungary; Annex III. lists licit narcotic substances and medicines containing narcotic drugs. 

-        Government Decree No. 272/2001.(XII.21.) on precursors (including the list of precursors).

Finally, under s.282/B, an adult encouraging a minor to use a substance that has a narcotic effect but is not classified as a narcotic drug is punishable by up to 3 years’ imprisonment.

Drug use and Possession

According to section 282 of the HCC, whoever without official authorization produces, manufactures, acquires, possesses, imports, exports, or transports through the country drugs, can be sentenced to up to 5 years in prison. This increases to between two to eight years, if the crime is committed as a business operation, as part of a criminal conspiracy, or by using a minor or drug-addicted person. However, if only a small quantity is involved, the punishment is up to 2 years in prison or a fine. The word “use” or “consume” does not appear in the text of the HCC, but standard case law has established that the notion of acquiring or possessing includes consumption, consequently consumption itself is implicitly criminalised.

Under section 282/C, most crimes have lower maximum sentences if the person committing it is an addict (based on the opinion of the forensic psychiatrist). So for example, if an addict produces, acquires, possesses the drugs, the punishment is only up to two years of imprisonment (instead of up to five years in case of non-addicts). The possession of small quantities of drugs by addicts is punishable with imprisonment up to one year, fine or work for the community.

Section 283 provides for limited exemptions from punishment for possession of small quantity for personal use if the perpetrator takes part in a treatment or prevention programme.

The term “small quantity” is defined by law (Act No. V. of 1979), which sets a maximum limit for the active principle of the substance, by weight. According to this Act, the quantity is small if it contains less than 0,001 gram (LSD), 0,6 gram (heroin), 0,5 gram (amphetamin, metamphetamin), 1 gram (MDA, MDMA, N-etil-MDA (MDE), MBDB, 1-PEA and N-metil-1-PEA), 1 gram (metadon), 0,9 gram (morphine), 2 gram (cocaine), 1 gram (ketamin), 1 gram (codeine), 0,8 gram dihidrocodeine, 1 gram (petidin), 1 gram (tetrahidro-kannabinol, THC).

Trafficking and drug related crime

Whoever without official authorization offers or supplies narcotic drugs, or is engaged in the distribution, trafficking or dealing of such, commits a felony offence and shall be punishable with imprisonment between two to eight years. However, if only a small quantity is involved, the punishment is imprisonment up to two years. The punishment is imprisonment of 5-10 years if the crime is committed in criminal conspiracy, or using a drug-addicted person, or by an official person or a person performing public duties, near educational establishments, or on the premises of the armed forces or prison system. The punishment is imprisonment of 5-15 years or life-time imprisonment if a large quantity is involved [a large quantity is defined by Act No. V. of 1979,  according to which the quantity is large if it exceeds 20 times the amount defined as small quantity]. However, if the crime is committed by an addict, the maximum penalty is less severe: up to three years of imprisonment. If only a small quantity is involved and the trafficking is committed by an addict, the punishment is imprisonment up to one year, fine or labour in the public interest.  

Section 282/B specifically addresses offences of supply using a minor, or supply to a minor. An adult giving drugs to a minor may be sentenced to up to ten years, unless the amount is only a small quantity, in which case up to five years.

There are no specific rules for drug-related crimes, consequently the general rules have to be applied. 

Prevention, care and treatment

As mentioned above, now both consumers and addicts can chose the treatment option (in this context the options to divert drug-using offenders into treatment have now been extended).

Under section 283 of HCC, a person who produces, manufactures, acquires, possesses small quantities of drugs for personal use, or who offers small quantities of drugs to other people on the occasion of joint drug consumption, shall not be punishable, provided that he proves prior to the pronouncing of the sentence in the first instance that he has received continuous treatment for drug addiction or consumption, or has taken part in preventive health care services for at least six months. These services are free of charge even for those who have no health care insurance

The professional content of the treatment is not defined by law (it is set by professional guidelines), however, it is stated that treatment is continuous if it takes more than two hours per week.

The treatment is entirely voluntary. If the person fully complies with the treatment it does not result in criminal record. If the person does not opt for the treatment, or if he opts but later does not comply with it, the suspended criminal procedure has to be continued and a criminal sentence has to be passed. However, the possibility of diversion is not unlimited: if the person commits another drug related crime within two years, the treatment option is not available any more.

The detailed regulations on treatment can be found in Decree 26/2003 of the Minister of Health and the Minister of Sport on the treatment of drug addiction, health care services provided to drug consumers and the preventive health care services.


Government Decree No. 272/2001.(XII.21.) Korm.r. contains the provisions for the control of trade, import, export and transit of precursors, and it contains the list of precursors. This Decree is harmonized with Regulation No. 3677/90/EEC as amended, and Directive 92/109/EEC as amended.

The main institution in charge of precursor control and monitoring is the Licensing and Administration Office of the Ministry of Economy and Transport. This office works in cooperation with the Public Health Authority (responsible for controlling and monitoring pharmacies), police authorities (responsible for investigation of illicit transactions involving precursors), and the Customs Authorities (responsible for the control of external trade in precursors).

Under Art 283/A of HCC, the unauthorised manufacturing, possession, acquiring, trading, export, import of precursors is a crime and is punishable with imprisonment up to five years. Similarly, the handing over of precursors to an unauthorised person is a crime with the same penalty.  There is no administrative offence related to precursors.

Money Laundering and Confiscation

The notion of money laundering was introduced into the HCC in 1994, and this provision was amended several times since (in accordance with the Convention of the Council of Europe on Money Laundering, see Act CI. of 2000). Art. 303. of HCC criminalises the laundering of all assets derived from criminal offences, without specifying certain types of crimes. The only criterion is that the criminal offence has to be punishable with imprisonment; consequently drug-related crimes are covered by money laundering.

In 1997 the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) was established within the Economic Crime Division of the National Police Headquarters. Financial institutions are obliged to prevent money laundering activities by identifying suspicious transactions and reporting them to FIU. Banks introduced their internal regulations (in cooperation with FIU) for assessing and reporting suspicious cases of money laundering.

Under Art. 303. of HCC, a person who uses assets gained in connection with the perpetration of a criminal act during economic activity in order to conceal its origin, or performs any financial or banking operation in connection with the assets, shall be punishable with imprisonment of up to five years. The punishment shall be imprisonment from two years to eight years, if the money laundering is committed in a significant value, in the manner of a business or as part of a criminal organization, as an officer or employee of a financial institution, securities distributing, investment fund handling, insurance institution or an institution dealing in the organization of gambling, as an official person, as an attorney-at-law.

Confiscated money goes to general State funds; it is not used for special purposes (funding of drug treatment or crime prevention).

New Developments

As already mentioned above, the penal provisions of drug-related crimes were amended substantially in 2003 (entry into force 1 March 2003). The treatment option was extended to non-addicts and a new Decree was passed on the health care services offered to those under criminal procedure for drug related-crimes (see above section “Prevention, Care and Treatment”.).


More information on Hungarian legislation can be found on the website of the Ministry of Children, Youth and Sport Affairs, www.gyism.hu (only in Hungarian)


This text has been written by dr. Ágnes Dósa MD, JD, of the Hungarian Academy of Legal Sciences.

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Page last updated: Monday, 19 March 2012