Legislation (21)

Development of laws  |  Legal attitudes to drug users  |  Trafficking

Development of laws

Since 1991, most of the acceding and candidate countries have been active in making major changes to their legislation in order to address the drug problem. As well as being in conformity with the UN Conventions, before 1990 the drug laws in a number of the countries concerned seem to have been similar to the legislative framework of the former Soviet Union. This effectively provided a relatively homogeneous basis from which each country is independently developing its national legislation. In these countries, changes or consolidation of legislation in the drugs field have been particularly noticeable since the mid-1990s.

Most acceding and candidate countries have chosen to address the offences of drug possession and trafficking in their Penal Code. In the last 10 years, seven (22) have replaced or significantly revised their Penal Codes to include revision of drug offences and/or penalties. Among those countries that have specific laws to describe drug offences, Romania and Poland have passed comprehensive new laws in the past 5 years, and Malta’s main drug control laws, which date back several decades, last underwent a major update in 1985.

Despite their comparatively recent changes of legislation, the Czech Republic and Hungary have already undertaken selective studies to try to assess the implementation of these laws. In the Czech Republic, the preliminary results of these studies showed that the 1999 criminalisation of ‘possession of amounts greater than small’ brought more social costs than benefits – at a minimum, the situation would have been aided by definition of the threshold quantity, for which prosecutorial guidelines were issued in 2000, and identification of different categories of drugs based on harm (23). In Hungary, the criminalisation of any use, again in 1999, was considered to have had more negative consequences than positive effects, and so this specific offence was removed in 2003.


(21) Information was not available from the ELDD network for Slovenia for this section.

(22) Slovakia (1996), the Czech Republic (1999), Latvia (1999), Bulgaria (2000), Romania (2000), Estonia (2002), Lithuania (2003) and Hungary (1999, 2003).

(23) In preparation at the time of writing.