Four European Union Countries Prohibit Cannabis

Discussion in 'Marijuana News' started by Superjoint, May 8, 2001.

  1. By Gabriela Ca=F1as
    Source: El Pais (Spain)

    Europe continues along a trend towards decriminalization of so-called illegal drugs. Of the 15 countries in the European Union, a total of seven do not punish personal consumption of any drug or only impose administrative fines. With regards to cannabis tolerance is near complete: only Sweden, France, Finland and Greece maintain penalties. Some countries want to go even further and call for legal medical marijuana, as is the case with Catalonia. Nevertheless, almost every country maintains penalties for the sale of drugs.

    In Greece, the possession of small quantities of drugs (including cannabis) for personal use can result in between five days and five years in prison. Finland does not distinguish between personal use and possession, which can be punished by up to two years in prison. Likewise, in Sweden consumption or possession of cannabis is punishable by up to six months in jail. France is the least harsh of the four restrictive European Union countries. Although penalties remain on the books, a 1999 directive recommends that simple consumers not be prosecuted and that drug treatment be proposed instead.
    In the rest of the European Union, and Switzerland, the path undertaken is that of decriminalized consumption. Some countries, like Spain and Italy, impose administrative fines. Others, like Great Britain, leave the door closed to opiates. And there are those, like Belgium and Luxembourg, that provide exemptions specifically for cannabis, making it the least penalized drug in the European Union. According to the European Monitor of Drugs and Addiction (Observatorio Europeo de la Droga y la Toxicomania), cannabis is also the drug most often consumed. A third of European adults have smoked cannabis at some point in time.

    Ireland does not penalize consumption and possession is penalized with a fine. In Germany "insignificant quantities" are not prosecuted and amounts considered insignificant vary depending on the locality. In Denmark, possession of small quantities typically results in a warning. Austria also stipulates the amount of drugs allowed for personal use.

    "The situation is constantly changing" explains Danielo Ballotta, legislative analyst for the European Monitor. "In the United Kingdom various organizations are promoting medical cannabis and I think the government will ultimately take it under consideration. In Luxembourg, on the other hand, decriminalization was passed and the subject has not come up again.

    The latest changes have been in Portugal and Switzerland. The former takes effect this July. No one in Portugal will be jailed for consuming drugs and addicts will be attended to by a treatment commission. "The criteria is based solely on public health precepts" explained Ballotta.

    In Switzerland, which does not belong to the European Union and has gone so far as to prescribe heroin, a proposed law allows for the regulated sale of cannabis. The future may involve authorized sales outlets, like the Dutch coffee shops. Of course, stores will not be allowed to export.

    This movement towards depenalized consumption conflicts with tough penalties for trafficking drugs. With the exception of Holland and, later, Switzerland, consumers will have to continue purchasing drugs from traffickers targeted by law enforcement. Although many countries impose the toughest penalties exclusively for problematic trafficking and leaders of distribution rings, selling drugs can result in life sentences, as is the case in France, Greece, Ireland and the United Kingdom.

    Note: The sale of hashish remains illegal in a majority of states.

    Complete Title: Only Four European Union Countries Still Prohibit Cannabis Consumption

    Source: El Pais (Spain)
    Author: Gabriela Ca=F1as
    Published: May 7, 2001
    Address: Miguel Yuste 40, 28037 Madrid, Spain
    Website: http://www.elpais.es
    Contact: cartasdirector@elpais.es

    (Spanish language LTEs only please)

    Translation by:
    Robert Sharpe http://www.drugpolicy.org
     

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