Drug Prohibition

The prohibition of drugs through sumptuary legislation or religious law is a common means of attempting to prevent the recreational use of the prohibited drugs.

While some drugs are illegal to possess, many governments regulate the manufacture, distribution, marketing, sale and use of certain drugs, for instance through a prescription system. Only certain drugs are banned with a "blanket prohibition" against all possession or use. However, a continuing problem remains in effect, as the prohibited drugs continue to be available through illegal trade, see illegal drug trade, also known as the Black Market. The most widely banned substances include psychoactive drugs, although blanket prohibition also extends to some steroids and other drugs. Many governments do not criminalize the possession of a limited quantity of certain drugs for personal use, while still prohibiting their sale or manufacture, or possession in large quantities. Some laws set a specific volume of a particular drug, above which is considered ipso jure to be evidence of trafficking or sale of the drug. Drug prohibition is responsible for enriching "organised criminal networks", according to some critics[1] while hypothesis that the prohibition of drugs generates violence is consistent with research done over long time-series and cross-country facts.[2]

Some Islamic countries prohibit the use of alcohol, see List of countries with alcohol prohibition. Many governments levy a sin tax on alcohol and tobacco products, and restrict alcohol and tobacco from sales or gifts to minors. Other common restrictions include bans on outdoor drinking and indoor smoking. In the early 20th Century, many countries had alcohol prohibition. These include The United States (1920–1933), Finland (1919–1932), Norway (1916–1927), Canada (1901–1948), Iceland (1915–1922) and the Russian Empire/USSR (1914–1925).


The cultivation, use, and trade of psychoactive and other drugs has occurred since prior to civilization's existence. Religious governments probably began to criminalize drugs' possession and trade in the Middle Ages, and such legislation has continued until the present day, by both religious and non-religious governments. In the 20th century, the United States led a major renewed surge in drug prohibition called the "War on Drugs". Today's War on Drugs bears many similarities to earlier drug laws, particularly in the motivation to prevent drug use.

Motivations claimed by supporters of drug prohibition laws across various societies and eras have included religious observance, allegations of violence by racial minorities,[3] and public health concerns. Those who are not proponents of anti-drug legislation characterize these motivations as religious intolerance, racism, and public healthism.

Drug laws (early)

The prohibition of the use of alcohol under Islamic law (Sharia), which is usually attributed to passages in the Qur'an dating from the 7th century. Like other Sharia laws, alcohol prohibition is enforced by Mutaween, known today in Saudi Arabia as the Committee for the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice. Some Muslim scholars assert that this prohibition actually addresses only the abuse of alcohol, but they do not have sufficient numbers or authority to override the familiar total prohibition. Although Islamic law is often interpreted as prohibiting all intoxicants (not only alcohol), the ancient practice of hashish smoking has continued throughout the history of Islam, against varying degrees of resistance. A major campaign against hashish-eating Sufis was conducted in Egypt in the 11th and 12th centuries resulting among other things in the burning of fields of cannabis.

Though the prohibition of illegal drugs was established under Islamic law, particularly against the use of hashish as a recreational drug, classical jurists of medieval Islamic jurisprudence accepted the use of hashish for medicinal and therapeutic purposes, and agreed that its "medical use, even if it leads to mental derangement, remains exempt" from punishment. In the 14th century, the Islamic scholar Az-Zarkashi spoke of "the permissibility of its use for medical purposes if it is established that it is beneficial."[4]

Religious intolerance was a motivation for drug prohibition in Christian Europe. In Meso-America and South America, peyote (péyotl), ololiúqui, toloáche, teonanácatl and other sacred plants of the Mexican culture were prohibited as works of the devil.

Coffee, regarded as a Muslim drink, was prohibited to Orthodox Christians in its native Ethiopia until as late as 1889; it is now considered a national drink of Ethiopia for people of all faiths. In the Ottoman Empire, Murad IV attempted to prohibit coffee drinking to Muslims as haraam, arguing that it was an intoxicant, but this ruling was overturned soon after his death in 1640.[5] The introduction of coffee in Europe from Muslim Turkey prompted calls for it to be banned as the devil's work, although Pope Clement VIII sanctioned its use in 1600, declaring that it was "so delicious that it would be a pity to let the infidels have exclusive use of it." Its early association in Europe with rebellious political activities led to its banning in England, among other places.[6]

In late Qing Imperial China, opium imported by the British East India Company was vastly consumed by all social classes in Southern China. Between 1821 and 1837, imports of the drug increased fivefold. The Chinese government attempted to end this trade on public health grounds. The effort was initially successful, with the destruction of all British opium stock in May 1839. However, to protect this trade, the British declared war on China (First Opium War). China was defeated and the war ended with the Treaty of Nanking, which protected foreign opium traders from Chinese law. The Treaty of Wanghia between the United States and China promised to end the smuggling of opium by Americans. It took until the next Opium War for the trade to be legalized.

In the northern provinces of Ningxia and Suiyuan in China, Chinese Muslim General Ma Fuxiang both prohibited and engaged in the opium trade. It was hoped that Ma Fuxiang would have improved the situation, since Chinese Muslims were well known for opposition to smoking opium.[7] Ma Fuxiang officially prohibited opium and made it illegal in Ningxia, but the Guominjun reversed his policy, by 1933, people from every level of society were abusing the drug, Ningxia was left in destitution.[8] In 1923, an officer of the Bank of China from Baotou found out that Ma Fuxiang was assisting the drug trade in opium which helped finance his military expenses. He earned a sum of $2 million from taxing those sales in 1923. General Ma had been using the Bank, a branch of the Government of China's exchequer, to arrange for silver currency to be transported to Baotou to use it to sponsor the trade.[9]

US prohibition of opium

The first law outright prohibiting the use of a specific drug in the United States was a San Francisco ordinance which banned the smoking of opium in opium dens in 1875. The reason cited was "many women and young girls, as well as young men of respectable family, were being induced to visit the Chinese opium-smoking dens, where they were ruined morally and otherwise." This was followed by other laws throughout the country, and federal laws which barred Chinese people from trafficking in opium. Though the laws affected the use and distribution of opium by Chinese immigrants, no action was taken against the producers of such products as laudanum, a tincture of opium and alcohol, commonly taken as a panacea by white Americans. The distinction between its use by white Americans and Chinese immigrants was thus based on the form in which it was ingested: Chinese immigrants tended to smoke it, while it was often included in various kinds of generally liquid medicines often (but not exclusively) used by people of European descent. The laws targeted opium smoking, but not other methods of ingestion.[10] As a result of this discrepancy, some modern commentators believe that these laws were possibly racist in origin and intent.

The most important reason for the increase in opiate consumption during the 19th century was however the prescribing and dispensing of legal opiates by physicians and pharmacist to women with "female problems" (mostly to relieve painful menstruation). Between 150,000 and 200,000 opiate addicts lived in the United States in the late 19th century and between two-thirds and three-quarters of these addicts were women.[11]

This was followed by the Harrison Act, passed in 1914, which required sellers of opiates and cocaine to get a license. While originally intended to require paper trails of drug transactions between doctors, drug stores, and patients, it soon became a prohibitive law. The law's wording was quite vague; it was originally intended as a revenue tracking mechanism that required prescriptions for opiates. It became legal precedent that any prescription for a narcotic given by a physician or pharmacist – even in the course of medical treatment for addiction – constituted conspiracy to violate the Harrison Act. In 1919, the Supreme Court ruled in Doremus that the Harrison Act was constitutional and in Webb that physicians could not prescribe narcotics solely for maintenance.[11] In the decision Jin Fuey Moy v. United States, 254 U.S. 189 (1920) the court upheld that it was a violation of the Harrison Act even if a physician provided prescription of a narcotic for an addict, and thus subject to criminal prosecution. The initial proponents of the Harrison Act did not support blanket prohibition of the drugs involved.[12] This is also true of the later Marijuana Tax Act in 1937. Soon, however, licensing bodies did not issue licenses, effectively banning the drugs.

The American judicial system did not initially accept drug prohibition. Prosecutors argued that possessing drugs was a tax violation, as no legal licenses to sell drugs were in existence; hence, a person possessing drugs must have purchased them from an unlicensed source. After some wrangling, this was accepted as federal jurisdiction under the interstate commerce clause of the U.S. Constitution.

Prohibition of alcohol

Main article: Prohibition

The prohibition of alcohol commenced in Finland in 1919 and in the United States in 1920. Because alcohol was the most popular recreational drug in these countries, reactions to its prohibition were very different than to the prohibition of other drugs, which were commonly perceived to be associated with racial and ethnic minorities. Public pressure led to the repeal of alcohol prohibition in Finland in 1932, and in the United States in 1933. Residents of many provinces of Canada also experienced alcohol prohibition for similar periods in the first half of the 20th century.

In Sweden, a referendum in 1922 decided against an alcohol prohibition law (with 51% of the votes against and 49% for prohibition), but starting in 1914 (nationwide from 1917) and until 1955 Sweden employed an alcohol rationing system with personal liquor ration books ("motbok").

Cannabis prohibition in the United States

Regulations and restrictions on the sale of cannabis as a drug began as early as 1860 as a part of different local poisons laws. In the middle of the 1930s all member states in the United States had some regulation of cannabis.[13][14] In 1936 the Federal Bureau of Narcotics (FBN) noticed an increase of reports of people smoking cannabis, which further increased in 1937. The Bureau drafted a legislative plan for Congress, seeking a new law and the head of the FBN, Harry J. Anslinger, ran a smear campaign against cannabis.[15] During this particular time frame, the media was swarmed with propaganda regarding the effects of marijuana. Harry J. Anslinger, a dominant leader in the prohibition against drugs, devised advertisements and commercials to inform the public of the believed side effects of marijuana. Citizens who were high on marijuana were crazy, insane, suicidal, had murderous intentions, etc. according to the propaganda.[16] Disregarding the scientific research on the subject and the falsified claims, the Marihuana Tax Act passed in 1937 quickly and with little debate and no opposition in Congress. The American Medical Association (AMA) supported a federal law, but recommended that marijuana to be added to the Harrison Narcotic Act.[17] The restrictions for Cannabis was part of a broad international trend supported by the president.[18]

Counterculture and the War on Drugs

In response to rising drug use among young people and the counterculture movement, government efforts to enforce prohibition were strengthened in many countries from the 1960s onward. Support at an international level for the prohibition of psychoactive drug use has been a consistent feature of United States policy during both Republican and Democratic administrations, to such an extent that US support for foreign governments has often been contingent on their adherence to US drug policy. Major milestones in this campaign include the introduction of the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs in 1961, the Convention on Psychotropic Substances in 1971 and the United Nations Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances in 1988. A few developing countries where consumption of the prohibited substances has enjoyed longstanding cultural support, long resisted such outside pressure to pass legislation adhering to these conventions — such as Nepal, which did not do so until 1976.[19][20]

In 1972, United States President Richard Nixon announced the commencement of the so-called "War on Drugs." Later, President Reagan added the position of drug czar to the President's Executive Office.

In 1973, New York State introduced mandatory minimum sentences of 15 years to life imprisonment for possession of more than four ounces (113g) of a so-called hard drug, called the Rockefeller drug laws after New York Governor and later Vice President Nelson Rockefeller. Similar laws were introduced across the United States.

California's broader 'three strikes and you're out' policy adopted in 1994 was the first mandatory sentencing policy to gain widespread publicity and was subsequently adopted in most United States jurisdictions. This policy mandates life imprisonment for a third criminal conviction of any felony offense.

A similar 'three strikes' policy was introduced to the United Kingdom by the Conservative government in 1997. This legislation enacted a mandatory minimum sentence of seven years for those convicted for a third time of a drug trafficking offense involving a class A drug.

Large movements[quantify] have grown in numerous[quantify] countries proposing various policy changes such as drug relegalization and drug decriminalization. For instance, there is a movement for cannabis legalization in Canada, as well as the Marijuana Party of Canada.

Various drug liberalization policies are often supported by proponents of liberalism and libertarianism. Continued drug criminalization is more typically supported by proponents of conservatism. The latter may often promote the more general notion of individualism, but social conservatives in particular continue to support drug prohibition.

The former Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, the Drug Czar, John P. Walters has described the drug problem in the United States as a "public health challenge", and he has publicly eschewed the notion of a "war on drugs." He has supported additional resources for substance abuse treatment and has touted random student drug testing as an effective prevention strategy. However, the actions of the Office of National Drug Control Policy continue to belie the rhetoric of a shift away from primarily enforcement-based responses to illegal drug use.[21]

Opium cultivation in Afghanistan

In July 2000, the Taliban rulers of Afghanistan banned opium as "against Islam." After the Taliban was ousted, opium cultivation resumed in more widespread areas and in greater yield. In April 2004, Afghan interim president Hamid Karzai declared a jihad on drugs (after opium output reached a near-record 3,600 tonnes in 2003 — equivalent to three-quarters of world supply). Over the next two years, despite the assistance of several hundreds of millions of dollars of foreign anti-drug support, Afghanistan raised opium production to 6,100 tonnes in 2006, produced on 407,000 acres (1,650 km2) of land, including nearly 30,000 acres (120 km2) of government land – a production estimated to exceed the global demand for opium by thirty percent.[22]

Latin American presidents calls for legalization

On February 22, 2008 the then Honduras President Manuel Zelaya called on the United States to legalize drugs, in order, he said, to prevent the majority of violent murders occurring in Honduras. Honduras is used by cocaine smugglers as a transiting point between Colombia and the US. Honduras, with a population of 7 million suffers an average of 8–10 murders a day, with an estimated 70% being as a result of this international drug trade. The same problem is occurring in Guatemala, El Salvador, Costa Rica and Mexico, according to Zelaya.[23]

In January 2012 Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos made a plea to the United States and Europe to start a global debate about legalizing drugs.[24]

In March 2012 the Guatemalan President Otto Pérez Molina said he wanted to legalize drugs, saying "What I have done is put the issue back on the table."[25]

Drug prohibition laws

The following individual drugs listed under their respective family groups (e.g., barbiturates, benzodiazepines, opiates) are the most frequently sought after by drug users and as such are prohibited or otherwise heavily regulated for use in many countries:

The regulation of the above drugs varies in many countries. Alcohol possession and consumption by adults is today widely banned only in Islamic countries and certain states of India. The United States, Finland, and Canada banned alcohol in the early part of the 20th century; this was called Prohibition. Although alcohol prohibition was repealed in the United States, there are still parts of the United States that do not allow alcohol sales, even though alcohol possession may be legal. Bhutan is the only country in the world where possession and use of tobacco is illegal. In some parts of the world, provisions are made for the use of traditional sacraments like Ayahuasca, Iboga, and Peyote. In Gabon, Africa, iboga (Tabernanthe iboga) has been declared a national treasure and is used in rites of the Bwiti religion. The active ingredient, ibogaine,[26] is proposed as a treatment of opioid withdrawal and various substance use disorders.

In countries where alcohol and tobacco are legal, certain measures are frequently undertaken to discourage use of these drugs. For example, packages of alcohol and tobacco sometimes communicate warnings directed towards the consumer, communicating the potential risks of partaking in the use of the substance. These drugs also frequently have special sin taxes associated with the purchase thereof, in order to recoup the losses associated with public funding for the health problems the use causes in long-term users. Restrictions on advertising also exist in many countries, and often a state holds a monopoly on manufacture, distribution, marketing, and/or the sale of these drugs.

In the United States, there is considerable legal debate about the impact these laws have had on Americans' civil rights. Critics claim that the War on Drugs has lowered the evidentiary burden required for a legal search of a suspect's dwelling or vehicle, or to intercept a suspect's communications. However, many of the searches that result in drug arrests are often "commission" to search a person or the person's property.

People who consent to a search, knowing full well that they possess contraband, generally consent because they are ignorant of the fact that they have the right to decline permission to search. Under the laws of most U.S. states, police are not required to disclose to suspects that they have the right to decline a search. Even when a suspect does not give permission to search, police are often known to state in arrest affidavits and even provide sworn testimony that the suspect consented to the search, secure in the knowledge that a judge will normally weigh all questions of credibility in favour of law enforcement and against the accused.[neutrality is disputed]

Similarly, in cases where the accused does not consent to a search, courts have generally held police to a very low standard[according to whom?] of reasonable suspicion and/or probable cause in drug cases, essentially endorsing "fishing expeditions" by stop-and-search highway interdiction police.[neutrality is disputed]

The sentencing statutes in the United States Code that cover controlled substances are notoriously intricate.[neutrality is disputed] For example, a first-time offender convicted in a single proceeding for selling marijuana three times, and found to have carried a gun on him all three times (even if it were not used) is subject to a minimum sentence of 55 years in federal prison. U.S. v. Angelos, 345 F. Supp. 2d 1227 (D. Utah 2004).

Drug sentencing guidelines under state law in America are generally much less harsh than the federal sentencing guidelines. The vast majority of drug felonies and almost all drug misdemeanors in the United States are prosecuted at the state level. The federal government tends to prosecute only drug trafficking cases involving large amounts of drugs, or cases, which have been referred to federal prosecutors by local district attorneys seeking harsher sentences under the federal sentencing guidelines. In rare instances, some defendants are prosecuted both federally and by the state for the same drug trafficking conduct. The United States Supreme Court has ruled that a defendant does not face double jeopardy if he is convicted and sentenced by both the state and federal government for the same underlying criminal conduct.

Sometimes, crimes not directly related to drug use and sale are prohibited. For example, the United States recently brought charges against club owners for maintaining a place of business where a) Ecstasy is known to be frequently consumed; b) paraphernalia associated with the use of Ecstasy is sold and/or widely tolerated (such as glow sticks and pacifiers); and c) "chill-out rooms" are created, where Ecstasy users can cool down (Ecstasy users in club settings tend to dance for extended periods of time, raising the user's blood temperature). These are being challenged in court by organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Drug Policy Alliance.

Drug prohibition has created several legal dilemmas. For example many countries allow the use of undercover law enforcement officers solely or primarily for the enforcement of laws against use of certain drugs. Many of these officers are allegedly allowed to commit crimes if it is necessary to maintain the secrecy of the investigation, or in order to collect adequate evidence for a conviction. Some people have criticized this practice as failing to ensure equality under the law because it grants police officers the right to commit crimes that no other citizen could commit without potential consequences.

Another legal dilemma is the creation of a legal loop hole allowing for the arbitrary arrest and prosecution of anyone in several countries. This is the result of several drugs such as Dimethyltryptamine, GHB and morphine being illegal to possess but also inherently present in all humans as a result of endogenous synthesis. Since some jurisdictions classify possession of drugs to include having the drug present in the blood in any concentration, all residents of such countries are technically in possession of multiple illegal drugs at all times.

The War on Drugs has stimulated the creation of international law enforcement agencies (such as Interpol), mostly in Western countries. This has occurred because a large volume of illicit drugs come from Third-World countries.

Social control

In Hallucinations: Behavior, Experience, and Theory (1975), senior US government researchers Louis Jolyon West and Ronald K. Siegel explain how drug prohibition can be used for selective social control:

Academic Noam Chomsky argues that Drug laws are currently, and have historically, been used by the state to oppress sections of society it opposes:[27]

Legal highs and prohibition

In 2013 the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction reported that there are 280 new legal drugs, known as legal highs, available in Europe.[28] One of the best known, mephedrone, was banned in the United Kingdom in 2010.[29] On November 24, 2010, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration announced it would use emergency powers to ban many synthetic cannabinoids within a month.[30] An estimated 73 new psychoactive synthetic drugs appeared on the UK market in 2012. The response of the Home Office has been to create a temporary class drug order which bans the manufacture, import and supply but not the possession of named substances.[31]


United States

Main article: Drug policy of the United States

Drug possession is the crime of having one or more illegal drugs in one's possession, either for personal use, distribution, sale or otherwise. Illegal drugs fall into different categories and sentences vary depending on the amount, type of drug, circumstances, and jurisdiction.

In the U.S., the penalty for illegal drug possession and sale can vary from a small fine to a prison sentence. In some states, marijuana possession is considered to be a petty offense, with the penalty being comparable to that of a speeding violation. In some municipalities, possessing a small quantity of marijuana in one's own home is not punishable at all. Generally, however, drug possession is an arrestable offense, although first-time offenders rarely serve jail time.

Federal law makes even possession of soft drugs, such as cannabis, illegal, though some local governments have laws contradicting federal laws.

In the U.S., the War on Drugs is thought to be contributing to a prison overcrowding problem. In 1996, 59.6%[32] of prisoners were drug-related criminals. The U.S. population grew by about +25% from 1980 to 2000. In that same 20 year time period, the U.S. prison population tripled, making the U.S. the world leader in both percentage and absolute number of citizens incarcerated. The United States has 5% of the world's population, but 25% of the prisoners.[33]


A Nielsen poll in 2012 found that only 27% of voters favoured decriminalisation.[34] Australia has steep penalties for growing and using drugs even for personal use.[35] [36] [37] with Western Australia having the toughest laws.[38]

There is an associated anti-drug culture amongst a significant number of Australians. Law enforcement targets drugs, particularly in the party scene.[39]

In 2012, crime statistics in Victoria revealed that police were increasingly arresting users rather than dealers,[40] and the Liberal government banned the sale of bongs that year.[41]

The Netherlands

In the Netherlands, cannabis and other "soft" drugs are partly decriminalised in small quantities. The Dutch government treats the problem as more of a public health issue than a criminal issue. Contrary to popular belief, cannabis is still illegal, mostly to satisfy the country's agreements with the United Nations. Coffee shops that sell cannabis to people 18 or above are tolerated in some cities, and pay taxes like any other business for their cannabis and hashish sales, although distribution is a grey area that the authorities would rather not go into as it is not decriminalised. Many "coffee shops" are found in Amsterdam and cater mainly to the large tourist trade; the local consumption rate is far lower than in the US. Each coffee shop will, from 2012, operate like a private club with some 1,000 to 1,500 members. In order to qualify for a membership card, applicants must be adult Dutch citizens, membership will only be allowed in one club.[42]

Netherlands has the highest antidrug related public expenditure per capita of all countries in EU (139 EUR per capita, 2004).

Similarly to the rest of the European Union member states and American democracies, controlled drugs are illegal in the Netherlands. Nevertheless, illegal drugs are consumed worldwide, causing concern in the international community. According to the United Nations Drug Control Programme, results in the 2001 World Drug Report estimate "that the extent of drug abuse in the world involves about 180 million people, which represents 3% of the global population. The majority of drug users (80%) used cannabis, followed by amphetamine-type stimulants such as methamphetamine, amphetamine and substances of the ecstasy group (16%), cocaine (8%), heroin (5%) and other opiates (2%)".

The administrative bodies responsible for enforcing the drug policies include the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport, the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations, and the Ministry of Finance. Local authorities also shape local policy, within the national framework. The prohibition policy is heavily influenced by the international community (through the United Nations), especially the neighboring states of France and Germany, which pressure the kingdom to be more strict, for they are directly affected through the illegal trafficking of narcotics coming from the Netherlands.

Legally, possession, manufacturing, trafficking, importation and exportation are forbidden. Nonetheless, it is not an offense to use drugs (Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 2003). There are different penalties involved when breaking the law, which may include a monetary fine, imprisonment, or both. To apply the law, the government differentiates between "soft" and "hard" drugs. Soft drugs are considered to produce less harm to both the individual and society, these being used mainly for folk medicine and recreational purposes. This category encompasses cannabis (nederwiet), hashish and some fungi. Hard drugs are considered to cause considerable personal harm through addiction and physical detriment, as well as nuisance to society, by increasing crime and deteriorating families. Cocaine, heroin, etc. belong to this category.

Along with these two categories, there is a pyramid of priority when it comes to prosecution by law enforcement agencies.

  1. The handling and trade of hard drugs is on the zenith, being a joint target not only by the Netherlands, but also by the international community. This can be punished by maximum sentences of twelve years of imprisonment and/or a fine of up to 45,000.
  2. The second priority is given to the production and trade of soft drugs. Deviation from the AHOJ-G criteria for coffee shops may result in up to four years of imprisonment and/or a fine of €45,000.
  3. The third priority focuses on hard drug users. Instead of labelling the users of hard drugs as "criminals", the state aims to rehabilitate users and prevent others from becoming addicted. However, disturbance to society caused by the consumption of hard drugs can result in one year of prison and/or a €11,250 fine. Lastly, individuals possessing more than five grams for personal consumption, or disturbing the public, can go to prison for one month and/or be fined €2,250.

There are varying rules within these categories, for example the amount possessed, the role played in the transaction and the intent of the goods.

Regarding coffee shops, the line between law and practice thins. A coffee shop is a heavily controlled business establishment where individuals can purchase a personal dose of soft drugs in the form of joints, pastry, drinks and packages. In theory illegal, these shops must abide by governmental and local regulations, as well as meet the AHOJ-G criteria, an acronym for: No Advertising, Hard drugs, Nuisance of any kind, Jongeren (minors under 18), and a limit of five grams per transaction. Additionally, the maximum stock at any time is five hundred grams. Local governments may impose additional rules, such as closing times, zoning (coffee shops may not be close to schools), and parking restrictions. The rationale behind coffee shops is to keep citizens away from the hard drugs scene, bringing them to a safe, social, and regulated environment.

When analysing the Dutch model, both disadvantages and advantages can be drawn when comparing the results with other countries. On a moral argument, tolerating soft drugs can be seen as the defeat of the government against hedonism. Additionally, decades of growing and perfecting cannabis and hashish has resulted in increased levels of the main active hallucinogenic constituent tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), as levels have doubled, making the derived products more powerful, and therefore requiring less to achieve the desired effect.

The coffee shop will lose its license if it caught selling to minors. Though there was a slight increase of use at the beginning, the rates balanced out some years later. The presence of coffee shops does not translate in public urge for experimentation. In fact, most people that did not consume drugs before the enhancement of the policy continue not to use them.

When compared to other countries, Dutch drug consumption falls in the European average at six per cent regular use (twenty-one per cent at some point in life) and considerably lower than the Anglo-Saxon countries headed by the United States with an eight per cent recurring use (thirty-four at some point in life). Experts have come to the conclusion that the policies applied do not play a striking role in these statistics, though there is debate over this issue (CEDRO, 2004).


Indonesia carries a maximum penalty of death for drug dealing, and a maximum of 15 years prison for drug use.

In 2004, Australian citizen Schappelle Corby was convicted of smuggling 4.4 kilograms of cannabis into Bali, a crime that carried a maximum penalty of death. Her trial reached the verdict of guilty with a punishment of 20 years imprisonment. Corby claimed to be an unwitting drug mule.

Australian citizens known as the "Bali Nine" were caught smuggling heroin, and each face the death penalty.

In August 2005, Australian model Michelle Leslie was arrested with two Ecstasy pills. She pleaded guilty to possession and in November 2005 was sentenced to 3 months imprisonment, which she was deemed to have already served, and was released from prison immediately upon her admission of guilt on the charge of possession.

At the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, Indonesia, along with India, Turkey, Pakistan and some South American countries opposed the criminalisation of drugs.[43]

Methods of law enforcement

Because the possession of drugs is a victimless crime that can be committed in privacy, the enforcement of prohibitionist laws requires methods of law enforcement to inspect even private property. In societies with strong property laws or individual rights, this may present a risk for conflicts or violations of rights.

Disrupting the market relies on eradication, interdiction and domestic law enforcement efforts.

Through cooperation with governments such as those of Colombia, Mexico and Afghanistan, coca (the plant source for cocaine) and poppy (the plant source for opium and heroin) are eradicated by the United States and other allies such as the United Kingdom, so that the crops cannot be processed into narcotics. Eradication can be accomplished by aerial spraying or manual eradication. However, the eradication is only temporary as the harvest fields can usually be replanted after a certain amount of time. The government of Colombian President Álvaro Uribe has resisted criticism of aerial spraying of coca and poppy and has seen major reductions in both crops according to the United Nations Office of Crime and Drugs (See also Plan Colombia). In 2003, over 1,300 square kilometers of mature coca were sprayed and eradicated in Colombia, where at the start of the year, approximately 1,450 square kilometers had been planted. This strategic accomplishment prevented the production over 500 tonnes of cocaine, sufficient to supply all the cocaine users in both US and Europe for one year. Further, it eliminated upward of $100 million of illicit income in Colombia. No effect on prices or availability in the marketplace has been noted, and the actual number of acres of coca planted seems to have actually increased, largely shifting to more remote areas or into neighboring countries. Aerial spraying also has the unintended consequence of destroying legitimate crop fields in the process.

Interdiction is carried out primarily by aerial and naval armed forces patrolling known trafficking zones. From South America to the United States most drugs traverse either the Caribbean Sea or the Eastern Pacific, usually in "go-fast" boats that carry drug cargos and engines and little else.

Investigation on drug trafficking often begins with the recording of unusually frequent deaths by overdose, monitoring financial flows of suspected traffickers, or by finding concrete elements while inspecting for other purposes. For example, a person pulled over for traffic violations may have illicit drugs in his or her vehicle, thus leading to an arrest and/or investigation of the source of the materials. The United States federal government has placed a premium on disrupting the large drug trafficking organizations that move narcotics into and around the United States, while state and local law enforcement focus on disrupting street-level drug dealing gangs.

Drug control strategy

Present drug control efforts utilize several techniques in the attempt to achieve their goal of eliminating illegal drug use:

  • Disrupting the market for drugs
  • Prevention efforts that rely on community activism, public information campaigns to educate the public on the potential dangers of drug use
  • Law-enforcement efforts against elements of the supply chain, through surveillance and undercover work
  • Providing effective and targeted substance abuse treatment to dependent users

Alternatives to prohibition

On February 11, 2009 a document called Drugs and democracy in Latin America: Towards a paradigm shift was signed by several Latin American political figures, intellectuals, writers and journalists as commissioners of the Latin American Initiative on Drugs and Democracy. The document questioned the war on drugs and points out its failures. It also indicates that prohibition has come with an extensive social cost, especially to the countries that take part in the production of illicit drugs. Although controversial, the document does not endorse either the production or consumption of drugs but recommends for both a new and an alternative approach. The document argues that drug production and consumption has become a social taboo that inhibits the public debate because of its relationship to crime and as consequence it confines consumers to a small circle where they become more vulnerable to the actions of organized crime. The authors also demand for a close review to the prohibitive strategies of the United States and the study of the advantages and limits of the damage reduction strategy followed by the European Union. The proposal uses three paradigms as an alternative:

  • The treatment of consumption as a problem of public health.
  • The reduction of consumption through the dissemination of information and prevention.
  • A new focus towards organized crime.

The document favors the European policies towards drug consumption since according to the authors it is more humane and efficient. The signers of this document are: Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Ernesto Zedillo, Cesar Gaviria, Paulo Coelho, Enrique Santos, Mario Vargas Llosa, Moisés Naím, Tomas Eloy Martinez[44]

Two years later in mid-2011, the core of the Initiative and its commission were extended and endorsed in a report issued by the Global Commission on Drug Policy. Joining the three former presidents of Colombia, Brazil and Mexico and Nobel Prize for Literature winner Llosa on the Global Commission were former U.S. Secretary of State George P. Schultz and Federal Reserve chair Paul Volcker; Carlos Fuentes, Mexican writer and public intellectual; John C. Whitehead, formerly of Goldman Sachs; and Kofi Annan, former Secretary-General of the United Nations.[45]

See also

US specific:


Further reading

  • Eva Bertram, ed., Drug War Politics: The Price of Denial, University of California Press, 1996, ISBN 0-520-20309-7.
  • James P. Gray, Why Our Drug Laws Have Failed and What We Can Do About It: A Judicial Indictment of the War on Drugs Temple University Press, 2001, ISBN 1-56639-859-2.
  • Richard Lawrence Miller, Drug Warriors and Their Prey, Praeger, 1996, ISBN 0-275-95042-5.
  • Dan Baum, Smoke and Mirrors: The War on Drugs and the Politics of Failure, Little Brown & Co., 1996, ISBN 0-316-08412-3.
  • Alfred W. McCoy, The Politics of Heroin: CIA Complicity in the Global Drug Trade, Lawrence Hill Books, 1991, ISBN 1-55652-126-X.
  • Clarence Lusane and Dennis Desmond, Pipe Dream Blues: Racism and the War on Drugs, South End Press, 1991, ISBN 0-89608-411-6.
  • United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Colombian Survey, June 2005.
  • Office of National Drug Control Policy, National Drug Control Strategy, March 2004.
  • David F. Musto, The American Disease, The Origins of Narcotics Controls, New Haven: Yale University Press, 1973, p. 43
  • Re-thinking drug control policy – Historical perspectives and conceptual tools by Peter Cohen
  • Policy from a harm reduction perspective (journal article)
  • Global drug prohibition: its uses and crises (journal article)
  • Self-administration behavior is maintained by the psychoactive ingredient of marijuana in squirrel monkeys (journal article)
  • Should cannabis be taxed and regulated? (journal article)
  • Learning from history: a review of David Bewley-Taylor’s The United States and International Drug Control, 1909–1997 (journal article)
  • Shifting the main purposes of drug control: from suppression to regulation of use
  • Setting goals for drug policy: harm or use reduction?
  • Prohibition, pragmatism and drug policy repatriation
  • Challenging the UN drug control conventions: problems and possibilities
  • The Economics of Drug Legalization
  • Britain on drugs (journal article)
  • Laws and the Construction of Drug- and Gender-Related Violence in Central America by Peter Peetz

External links

  • Ethan Nadelmann
  • Drug War Facts
  • Students for Sensible Drug Policy
  • Students for Sensible Drug Policy UK
  • Drug Policy Alliance
  • National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign
  • Fifteen Years to Life
  • Drug Detection Times in the Human Body
  • EMCDDA – Decriminalisation in Europe? Recent developments in legal approaches to drug use.
  • European Coalition for Just and Effective Drug Policies (ENCOD)
  • The Media Awareness Project
  • PBS
  • 10 Downing Street's Strategy Unit Drugs Report
  • Tegenlicht of VPRO Dutch television. After short introduction in Dutch (1 min), English spoken. Broadband internet needed.
  • Tegenlicht of VPRO Dutch television. After short introduction in Dutch (1 min), English spoken. Broadband internet needed.
  • DrugSense
  • Smoked Out
  • American Drug War
  • The Committee on Unjust Sentencing
  • Transform Drug Policy Foundation
  • After the War on Drugs: Options for Control (Report)
  • Partnership for Drug Freedom in America
  • by Milton Friedman
  • Network Against Prohibition
  • National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws
  • Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP)
  • Harry Browne
  • War on Drugs – How government drug war policies promote violence, destroy liberty and actually increase drug abuse.
  • Alcohol and Drugs History Society
  • Drugs and conservatives should go together

This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and USA.gov, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for USA.gov and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.