Drug policy

Drug policy usually refers to a government's attempt to combat drug addiction in society and to mitigate its negative effects. Governments try to combat drug addiction by tackling both the demand and supply of drugs. Measures on the demand side include prohibition, penalties for drug offenses, correctional systems for persons convicted for drug offenses, coercive care for drug abusers, treatment, rehabilitation, wareness campaigns, education, support to families, voluntary workes and deterrance. Measures on the supply side include criminal punishment of drug dealing, interception of drug trafficking and foreign policy aimed at eradicating the cultivation of plants used to make drugs. Mitigation measures include needle exchange and drug substitution programs, and free facilities for testing a drug's purity.

Drug Policy by country


There is a movement in Australia to make some substances decriminalised, particularly cannabis, making the possession of such a non-convictable offence in most states (however, the definition of what constitutes possession can differ between states). As a result of the decriminalisation, the punishments for drug use and drug dealing in Australia are typically very small, with many convicted small-time drug dealers not having to spend any time in jail.

In 2007 reported a federal parliamentary committee that it has found the Government's harm-minimization policy is not effective enough. It has recommended a zero-tolerance approach for drug education in schools. The committee also wants the law changed so children can be put into mandatory treatment for drug addiction. There is an associated pro-drugs culture amongst a significant number of young Australians. The popular national youth radio station Triple J often refers to drug use with a neutral sentiment, rarely discouraging their use. Many take this neutrality as an encouragement to use drugs, and a feeling of drug use being acceptable in Australia. However, there is law enforcement targeting drugs for ex. in traffic or in the party scene.


Drug policy in the Netherlands is based on the two principles that drug use is a health issue, not a criminal issue, and that there is a distinction between hard and soft drugs. The Netherlands is currently the only country to have implemented a wide scale, but still regulated, decriminalisation of marijuana. Importing and exporting of any classified drug is a serious offence. The penalty can run up to 12 to 16 years if it is hard drug trade, maximum 4 years for import or export of large quantities of cannabis. Investment in treatment and prevention of drug addiction is high when compared to the rest of the world. Netherlands spends significant more per capita than all other countries in EU on drug law enforcement, 75% of drug related public spending is law enforcement. Drug use remains at average Western European levels and slightly lower than in English speaking countries.


Sweden has a policy of zero tolerance against all illicit drugs, including cannabis. The official aim is that of a drug free society. Drug use itself is criminal and punishable since 1988. Enforcement is in the form of wide spread drug testing, and penalties ranging from rehabilitation treatment and fines to a maximum 10 year prison sentence. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) reports that Sweden has one of the lowest drug usage rates in the Western world, and attributes this to a drug policy that invests heavily in prevention and treatment (including free community services), as well as strict law enforcement. The general drug policy is supported by all political parties and, according to the opinion polls, the restrictive approach receives broad support from the public.

The police efforts on combating street level crime has been shown to have a preventative effect, deterring young people from testing drugs. However, these is no evidence that it would lead to a lower amount of drug addicts. The UNODC report, have been criticized for being unscientific and fundamentally biased in favor of repressive drug laws, and that the report of the UNODC does not show any connection between Sweden's drug use statistics and it is drugs policy.


The national drug policy of Switzerland was developed in the early 1990s and comprises the four elements of prevention, therapy, harm reduction and prohibition. Political initiatives in the 1990s and 2000s to make Swiss drug policy either more permissive or more restrictive, including through national popular initiatives, have been unsuccessful.

United States

Modern US drug policy is still largely based on the war on drugs started by president Richard Nixon in 1972. In the United States, illegal drugs fall into different categories and punishment for possession and dealing varies on amount and type. Punishment for marijuana possession is light in most states, but punishment for dealing and possession of hard drugs can be severe, and has contributed to the growth of the prison population.

US drug policy is also heavily invested in foreign policy, supporting military and paramilitary actions in South America, Central Asia, and other places to eradicate the growth of coca and opium.

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