Drug Use Criminalization v. Decriminalization

An Analysis in the Light of the Italian Experience
Luigi M. Solivetti
Report on mandate of the Swiss Federal Office of Public Health
January 2001

publicationThe present paper focuses on the pros & cons of the main dichotomy in the field of drug control policy: that between criminalization and decriminalization. In the extensive opening chapter dedicated to the “Premises”, the various points of view about the advisability of having recourse to criminal sanctions are examined.

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In the extensive concluding chapter, it is emphasized that the increasing repressive measures to tackle drug offences, and the introduction of new alternative sanctions, did not bring about any visible impact on the phenomenon of drug diffusion. As regards the possible consequences of the decriminalization of drugs, and in the first instance that of “soft” drugs like cannabis, the paper argues, on the basis of what has happened in Italy and elsewhere, that such a policy would probably cause a certain increase in the number of drug users. However, this increase in drug diffusion should be evaluated against the costs associated with the current crusade against drugs: the criminalization of a substantial share of the young generations, the prisons filled with drug users, the justice system clogged up with drug offences.