As Britain’s future drug policy is currently being reviewed, there is a big divide amongst those who think they should be decriminalised and those who think they should remain illegal. From decriminalisation to death penalties, there are many different approaches to drug control all around the world but is there any one method that actually works?
Drugs were effectively decriminalised in Portugal over a decade ago. Although they are still prohibited, drug use is no longer a crime and new policies have been developed with regards to prevention, treatment, harm reduction and reinsertion.
According to Home Office statistics, since this has been done there has been a considerable improvement in the health of drug users in the country and there has also been a reduction in the number of HIV cases and overdoses.
Although possession of drugs is illegal in the Czech Republic, being caught with a small amount is treated as an administrative offence and is punishable with only a fine. Levels of cannabis use in the country are amongst the highest in Europe.
Although drug possession is illegal in Holland, the police and courts operate a policy of tolerance which is why the country has became famous for its cannabis smoking. Perhaps surprisingly, the reported number of deaths linked to the use of drugs in the Netherlands is one of the lowest in the EU.
Japan has the toughest drug laws in the developed world. The country operates a zero-tolerance policy and criminal sanctions are tougher than they are in the UK. There are low levels of drug use in Japan but it’s difficult to decipher whether this can be attributed to the harsh penalties or a long cultural opposition to drugs and a society where cultural conformity is valued.
Sweden is seen as the toughest zero-tolerance state when it comes to drugs in Western Europe. Both use and possession is illegal and even minor use can lead to a prison sentence. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime reports that the country has one of the lowest drug usage rates in the Western world.
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