Absolving drug users from arrest and prosecution for drug use and preparatory acts like acquisition, simple possession or cultivation for personal use does not lead to increased drug use, but does significantly lower pressure on law enforcement agencies and on the judicial and penitentiary systems, and it removes barriers for users with problematic patterns of use to approach treatment and harm reduction services.

  • Drug Decriminalisation Across the World

    The criminalisation of people who use drugs compounds drug-related challenges and worsens health and welfare outcomes. Across the world, there is a growing number of jurisdictions where the possession of scheduled drugs for personal use has been decriminalised. In some countries and federal states, this has been extended to the cultivation of cannabis for personal use or the sharing of substances where there is no financial gain (also known as ‘social sharing’). In some legal systems criminal penalties are replaced by civil sanctions, while in other systems no penalties are applied – please see our glossary for more detailed definitions. Some form of decriminalisation has been adopted in 30 countries – with significant differences and levels of effectiveness. This interactive map provides an overview of these models, offering insights into decriminalisation laws, their implementation and impact.

    Drug Decriminalisation Across the World

  • Health bodies call for drugs to be decriminalised

    UK should adopt the Portuguese system under which people caught using drugs were offered treatment and support rather than being punished
    BBC News (UK)
    Thursday, June 16, 2016

    Two leading public health organisations have called for the possession and personal use of all illegal drugs to be decriminalised in the UK. The Royal Society for Public Health and the Faculty of Public Health said the government's approach to drugs policy had failed. There should be a greater focus on treatment and education, they added. The report, Taking A New Line On Drugs, said criminal sanctions failed to deter illegal drug use, undermined people's life chances and could act as a barrier to addicts coming forward for help. (See also: Breaking Good - Times editorial | Leading public health bodies call for decriminalisation of drugs)

  • A Quiet Revolution

    Drug Decriminalisation Across the Globe
    Niamh Eastwood, Edward Fox & Ari Rosmarin
    March 2016

    This is the second edition of ‘A Quiet Revolution: Drug Decriminalisation Across the Globe’. The first edition was released in July 2012 and has since been cited by a wide range of organisations and agencies, including: the World Health Organisation, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, and the Global Commission on Drug Policy. This edition builds on the 2012 publication, providing updates on the jurisdictions originally covered and highlighting a number of new countries that have adopted a non-criminal justice response to the possession of drugs for personal use.

    Read the press release here
    Download the report
    (PDF - outside link)

  • UN attempt to decriminalise drugs foiled

    The UNODC paper also suggests low-level dealing should not be criminal offence
    BBC News (UK)
    Monday, October 19, 2015

    A paper from the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has been withdrawn after pressure from at least one country. The document, which was leaked, recommends to consider "decriminalising drug and possession for personal consumption", arguing "arrest and incarceration are disproportionate measures". The UNODC has been under pressure for some time to make a clear statement regarding decriminalisation. UN agencies including the World Health Organisation and UNAIDS have been explicit in their opposition to drug users facing criminal sanctions on health and human rights grounds. The UNODC says the document is under review.

  • Cannabis policy in the Czech Republic

    The Czechs rank among the top cannabis users in Europe
    Tereza Filipková
    Tuesday, September 1, 2015

    The Czech drug related legislation is quite extensive and includes laws as well as various by-laws. The most important feature of the Czech legislative system is that criminal law does not consider drug use to be a criminal offence. The new Czech Criminal Code introduced a brand new sig­nificant feature into the Czech legal system – the differentiation between cannabis and other nar­cotic drugs and psychotropic substances.

  • Drug policy and incarceration in São Paulo, Brazil

    Juliana de Oliveira Carlos
    IDPC Briefing Paper
    June 2015

    This briefing paper analyses the impact of drug policy on incarceration in São Paulo (Brazil), based on information collected among 1,040 people caught for having committed a drug-related offence (i.e. arrested in “flagrante delicto”) between 1st April and 30st June 2011. The objective of the research was to use empirical data on those caught in the criminal justice system for drug traffic to demonstrate the fragile distinctions between drug users and traffickers, provide information on how police officers deal with drug-related offences, and analyse how the judiciary effectively responds to these crimes (at least in the initial phases of the criminal justice process).

    application-pdfDownload the briefing (PDF)

  • The science of decriminalizing drugs

    What happens when states ease up on penalties for possession
    Popular Science (US)
    Monday, February 2, 2015

    The legal landscape for marijuana has never looked this relaxed. Alaska, Oregon, and Washington, D.C. voted during the recent election season to legalize the recreational use of marijuana. Other states reduced the punishments for possessing small amounts of the drug, a move the American Academy of Pediatrics just endorsed. According to polls, more Americans than ever support legalizing cannabis. As legal and public views shift, we thought we'd take a look at the science of decriminalizing drugs.

  • Portugal: Ten years after decriminalization

    Drug use did not skyrocket in the years following decriminalization
    Hungarian Civil Liberties Union (HCLU)
    Monday, November 26, 2012

    In 2001, a small European country, Portugal, took a brave step, changing its drug policies and refocussing its efforts away from arresting and criminalising drug users, towards smart public health interventions. How did the political establishment of a Catholic-Conservative country come to such an agreement about decriminalization? How does the system work? Is it effective?

  • A Quiet Revolution

    Drug Decriminalisation Policies in Practice Across the Globe
    Ari Rosmarin & Niamh Eastwood
    July 2012

    'A Quiet Revolution: Drug Decriminalisation Policies in Practice Across the Globe' is the first report to support Release's campaign 'Drugs - It’s Time for Better Laws'. This report looks at over 20 countries that have adopted some form of decriminalisation of drug possession, including some States that have only decriminalised cannabis possession.

    application-pdfDownload the report (PDF)

  • Will reducing or removing the criminal penalties for drug possession lead to greater use?

    Hypothesising an alternative: Applying the scientific process to drug policy
    David Nutt's Blog: Evidence not Exaggeration
    Friday, June 29, 2012

    We should decriminalise the possession of drugs for personal use for the following simple reasons: (1) If users are addicted then they are ill, and criminal sanctions are an inappropriate way to deal with an illness; (2) If they are not addicted then criminalisation will almost always lead to greater harms to the user than the effects of the drug. For example, it can severely limit career options in public service and prevent travel to some countries particularly the USA.

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