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Laws Around the World


When it comes to penalties for the sale and use of illicit drugs, each country has its own set of rules and regulations. What may be deemed socially acceptable in one part of the world may literally be punishable by death in another. The following is a brief review of some of the differences between various countries’ drug policies and how each country approaches the health crisis that can occur when a significant portion of their population is abusing drugs.

The Drug Policies of Australia

Despite a growing counterculture that supports the legalization of marijuana and other drugs, the laws in Australia concerning drug abuse and drug sales are similar to those in the United States. There is a strong emphasis placed on drug education in the schools starting as early as the equivalent to American middle school. That being said, Australia has been a more outspoken proponent of certain harm reduction measures, such as needle exchange programs.

Laws in the Netherlands

The biggest difference between the drug laws of the Netherlands and the United States is that the Dutch government approaches the problem as a health issue and not a criminal issue. The country invests much more money into the treatment of drug addiction and education on drug abuse prevention than it does the imprisonment of potential users. Most notably, the Netherlands is the only country to completely decriminalize the use and sale of marijuana.

Policy in the United States

The penalties for drug possession or sale in the United States can be harsh, as evidenced by the fact that a large percentage of the prison population in this country is comprised of individuals with a drug problem. President Richard Nixon began the “war on drugs” in the 1970s, and since that time the country has spent billions of dollars trying drug users in a court of law and pursuing drug traffickers at all open borders and within the states themselves.

The United Kingdom’s Stance on Drugs

The Brits have always maintained their own take on drug laws, and things are no different in the 21st century. The Misuse of Drugs Act of 1971 broke down all drug-related offenses into three categories: Class A, Class B and Class C – with “A” being the most dangerous drugs and “C” being the least dangerous drugs. While certain possession laws are more liberal in Great Britain than in the United States, possession with an intent to sell carries with it the potential of life imprisonment.

Switzerland Drug Laws

Switzerland is home to some of the most liberal policies in the world in terms of drug-related offenses. The emphasis of the Swiss government is on “prevention, therapy, harm reduction and prohibition” – putting a special emphasis on helping drug addicts receive comprehensive treatment, and doing everything in its power to insure the safety of active users. In fact, the country was recently the focus on worldwide controversy thanks to government-sponsored “safe rooms” where heroin addicts could shoot up with clean needle in a non-threatening environment.

Drug Policy in Germany

German drug policies are considered among the strictest in Europe. Although serious penalties are attached to the sale or possession of large quantities of drugs, there is no criminal action taken for small-scale possession or the use of many narcotics including marijuana. The German government has even gone so far as to allow for supervised “drug rooms” like those found in the Netherlands, where individuals can safely use their drug of choice and receive counseling when needed.

The Future of Drug Laws Around the Globe

More progressive countries in Europe are leading the way in terms of the decriminalization of drug use and possession. Although this attitude has captured headlines, the jury is still out as to how successful these programs are at providing for the health and wellbeing of their citizens. It will take years of research of reliable data to determine whether or not a harsher attitude is more effective.

Certainly in the United States, there is ample evidence that the European approach may be more appropriate. As more states seem to drop treatment in favor of imprisoning addicts, the jail system in the U.S. has been steadily filling with drug-addicted individuals for years, and it has seemingly done little to act as a deterrent to other users.

If you or someone you love suffers from drug addiction, contact us today. We can offer advise on the best avenue to sobriety and match you up with a treatment program that can help you get there. Call now.

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