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Drugs of Abuse: Cannabis and Its Associated Risks

While the health and social impact of cannabis over the younger population has already been addressed repeatedly, much less is known about the legal aspect.

For example, did you know that international laws force countries to impose criminal penalties for drug supply outside of medical purposes? Still, many countries and jurisdictions prefer to tolerate or expand the legalized use of cannabis and its associated products for non-medical purposes.

Drugs of Abuse: Cannabis - The Legal Landscape

The most famous and notable example is the Netherlands, where cannabis is not legal – as most think – but tolerated, and has been since the ‘70s. Also, possession of cannabis for personal use in an offense in all EU Member States, but about one third of these do not allow prison sentences for minor offenses. For example, while in Scandinavia (Sweden, Norway, Finland, and Denmark) someone may go to prison for possession for personal use, in Ireland, Bulgaria, Italy, Spain, or Portugal, a prison sentence would not be possible. The same applies to Belgium, Slovenia, the Czech Republic, Croatia, Lithuania, and Latvia, where incarceration for this offense is not possible.

Supply of cannabis for recreational use is still illegal everywhere in the EU, with prison sentences applying uniformly across the board. In Netherlands, however, there are coffee shops for the sale and on-site consumption, which are licensed by the municipality. Two thirds of all Dutch municipalities do not allow them, though.

In some European countries – notably Spain – the cultivation of one cannabis plant is tolerated for one person’s use, which led to the establishment of “cannabis social clubs” based on the premise that if one plant is allowed for one person, ten plants will be tolerated for ten persons. This is, however, entirely not tolerated and unsanctioned by the Spanish government.

In order to better assess numbers and situations, law enforcement have at their disposal the useful and efficient instruments: Among them, hand held analyzers and portable drug test kits, used especially under more pressing or limiting circumstances, outside of the usual labs and clinics.