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Drug decriminalisation around the world

New global map from Talking Drugs

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17 countries decriminalise drug use

This content is reproduced with the kind permission of Talking Drugs


Where in the world is personal drug use decriminalised?

Many countries have enacted legislation, or have had court rulings, which have decriminalised personal drug possession. However the implementation of this approach is far from uniform; in some countries with decriminalisation, people continue to face prison sentences for possessing small quantities of drugs.

Countries with total decriminalisation (red on map)

Argentina: Supreme Court ruled in 2009 that criminalizing people for drug possession for personal consumption was unconstitutional. However, no bill has passed to decriminalise drug possession, and people continue to be prosecuted.

Chile: Personal drug possession was decriminalised in 2005, although a “personal” quantity has not been legally defined – so many people continue to be criminalised for possessing small quantities of drugs.

Colombia: Personal drug possession was decriminalised in 1994, and this was reaffirmed by the Supreme Court in 2011.

Costa Rica: Costa Rica decriminalised all personal drug possession in 1988.

Croatia: In Croatia, as of 2013, the possession of ‘small quantities’ of drugs for personal use is no longer a criminal offence, punishable instead by a fine.

Czech Republic: Czech Republic decriminalised all personal drug possession in 2010.

Italy: Drug possession for personal use is punishable by administrative sanctions in Italy. If a person is found in possession of illicit drugs for the first time, administrative sanctions are not usually applied.

Latvia: In Latvia, possession of small amounts of drugs for personal use is an administrative offence punishable by a warning or a fine.

Mexico: Mexico decriminalised possession of small amounts of drugs in 2009, but threshold quantities are so low that many people continue to be criminalised for possessing small quantities.

Netherlands: Drug possession in the Netherlands is not statutorily decriminalised; rather, there is a long-standing non-prosecution policy in place. Personal drug possession is de facto decriminalised.

Paraguay: Paraguay permits the possession of illicit drugs for personal consumption. However, in order to qualify for this exemption people must be registered as a person who uses drugs

Peru: Personal drug possession has been decriminalised since 2003.

Portugal: Portugal decriminalised all personal drug possession in 2001.

Russia (excluded from the map): According to the law, personal drug possession is decriminalised in Russia. However, the extremely low thresholds make the system unworkable, and people caught in possession of very small quantities of drugs for personal use continue to be imprisoned.

Slovenia: In Slovenia, possessing a small amount of drugs for one’s own use and consumption is not considered a criminal offence, but it may result in a fine.

Spain: The Spanish Supreme Court ruled in 1974 that drug consumption and possession were not criminal offences, the concept was not integrated into Spanish law until 1982. Currently, if police find an individual in possession of up to 5 days’ worth of drugs, that individual is likely to face an administrative penalty issued by the police.

Uruguay: Possession of drugs for personal use has never been criminalised in Uruguay.

Countries considering decriminalisation (yellow on map)

The governments of Ireland, Ghana, and Norway are considering the decriminalisation of all drug possession for personal use.


Countries with cannabis decriminalisation (green on map)

Australia: Personal cannabis possession has been decriminalised in three states: South Australia (up to 100g punished with a fine), Australian Capital Territory (up to 50g punished by fine, or diverted to treatment in certain cases), and the Northern Territory (up to 50g punished by fine).

Belgium: Adults found with under 3 grams or just one plant of cannabis for personal use will not be prosecuted.

Germany: In 1994, the German Federal Constitutional Court ruled that criminal penalties for the possession or importation of small amounts of cannabis were unconstitutional. Some regions have interpreted this ruling to extend to other drugs.

Georgia: Personal cannabis possession was decriminalised in Georgia in 2017. In 2018, the Constitutional Court that it cannot be punished in any way, including fines.

Israel: In Israel, personal cannabis possession was decriminalised for adults in 2018. Soldiers found in possession can still be prosecuted.

Jamaica: Possession of up to 2 ounces of cannabis will not result in a criminal record in Jamaica.

Switzerland: An adult caught in possession of 10 grams of cannabis or less will not be subject to prosecution.

United States: At least 18 states have legalised or decriminalised cannabis.

Countries with recreational cannabis regulation (blue on map)

Canada: Recreational cannabis will be officially legal in Canada on October 17, 2018.

Uruguay: Uruguay became the first country to legalise recreational cannabis. The law passed in 2013, personal cultivation was legalised in 2014, and pharmacies began selling the drug in 2017.

USA: Nine states (Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont and Washington) have legalised the sale and possession of cannabis for both medical and recreational use. In the state of Vermont and Washington D.C., personal use has been legalised, but commercial sale remains illegal.

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