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  • Writer's pictureLAWGIC STRATUM


Author: Umadevi


Decriminalization removes the use or possession of a prohibited substance as criminal offenses and executes civil and administrative measures to deal with the conduct.

Under decriminalization, a person cannot be charged, convicted, or sentenced for the conduct as it is no longer a criminal offense. However, the use or possession of a prohibited substance engagement comes under civil or administrative offense (regulatory offense) that captivates a state response designed to deter and punish the conduct by issuing a pecuniary penalty or fine.

There exists a possibility to have a decriminalization model that exempts certain individuals from criminal liability based on eligible criteria, for instance, 36N of the Drug Misuse and Trafficking Act, 1985 exempts from criminal liability based on criminal liability - a person possessing and administering a small quantity of a prescribed substance in a licensed supervised injection center. [1]

The Special Commission has received multiple submissions expressing opinions that the use of drugs and drug dependence ought to be treated as a health, public health, and/ social issue, rather than primarily a criminal issue. It is to be noted that these submissions favor a shift in the approach to the use and harm of drugs and they argue in support of changing the focus from law enforcement to the broader health and social issues associated with the harmful use of drugs had, therefore, Decriminalization is considered as an important measure to support such a change of focus.

Decriminalization largely applies to drug use and possession offenses, not to the sale or supply of drugs. It places its focus on drug users rather than drug suppliers.

But, in essence, decriminalization refers to a reduction of legal penalties and to resort to other ways such as charging fines, giving them civil penalties, or diverting drug use offenders away from a criminal conviction and into education or other treatment options.

Decriminalization of drugs has the potential to reduce the burden on police and the criminal justice system. It helps to eradicate the negative consequences associated with criminal convictions for drug use.


In 2001, Portugal became the first country to decriminalize the possession and consumption of all illicit substances. Instead of arresting them, those caught with a personal supply might be given a warning, a small fine, or told to appear before a local commission with a motive of treating them and to provide support services that are available to them.

The Opioid crisis soon stabilized, and the ensuing years saw dramatic drops in problematic drug use, overdose deaths, drug-related crime, and incarceration rates. HIV infection dropped from 2000 of 10.42 new cases per million to 4.2 cases per million in 2015. [2]

Portugal's remarkable recovery and even though it had to face various challenges one of which includes conservative leaders who would have preferred to return to the US-style war on drugs. However, the official policy of decriminalization made it far easier for a broad range of services (health, psychology, psychiatrist, employment,etc.) to serve their communities more effectively. A shift in language was observed, those who have been referred to sneeringly as dragados (junkies) - became more known, more sympathetically, and more accurately “as people who use drugs” / “people with addiction disorders.

Recently, many countries have taken steps toward decriminalization. However, the effectiveness of these approaches varies depending on many factors- such as the quantities used to define “personal possession,” and the degree to which the policy aims towards a health-centered agenda.

Most of the countries differentiate between soft and hard drugs, listing cannabis as a soft narcotic, and two countries, the Netherlands and Uruguay, provide for special cannabis-related rules. However, in the Netherlands marijuana is still classified as an illicit substance, these two countries bear and regulate the use of cannabis.

New Zealand regulates the production and sale of “new psychoactive substances,” such as party pills and synthetic cannabis. Previously unregulated and sold without restrictions, these drugs have now become subject to government control which also includes the regulation of their sale.

It is to be noted that all of the countries reviewed such drug-related offenses as distributing, possessing drugs in large amounts, cultivating plants containing a narcotic substance, producing drugs and possessing items for their production, etc., are recognized as crimes.

However, the possession of drugs for personal use in small amounts is no longer a criminal offense in some jurisdictions,but rather wrongdoing subject to a monetary fine or other non-pecuniary punishment.

Costa Rica, Germany, Israel, New Zealand, and the Australian State of New South Wales are among those jurisdictions where the prosecutors, police, or courts have the discretion to reduce charges if a minor offense involving prohibited drugs has been committed for the first time and is willing to undergo addiction treatment.

It emerges that where decriminalization of drug-related activities has occurred, it was done to secure the health and safety of the society as well as the individual.\


The Netherlands has a long-standing policy not to prosecute possession of roughly a single dose of any drug for personal use. It has lower rates of addiction than the U.S. and much of Western Europe.

The Dutch also have much lower heroin overdose rates and prevalence of injection drug use compared to the U.S. and also the number of young people who are addicted to drugs has decreased.[3]


Mexico’s 2009 decriminalization law is highly symbolic. The threshold limits defining “possession” vs “trafficking” were reduced and the penalties for trafficking were increased. We can say that Mexico’s law has increased the number of individuals arrested and sanctioned for drug law violations,(“net widening’)


1.5 million drug arrests are made every year in the U.S. and since the 1970’s the drug war has resulted in unprecedented levels of incarceration and the marginalization of tens and millions of Americans. It was then realized that one means to reduce the number of people swept into the criminal justice system for violations of drug law is to decriminalize drug use and its possession.

Therefore, the Decriminalization of Narcotics and various other substances have done wellforthe society at large as it focuses on transforming and killing the addiction rather than punishing them.It also helps in reducing the number of people arrested, reducing criminal justice costs, and redirecting from criminal justice to health systems.


1)Decriminalization of Norcotics: Netherlands



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