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Cannabis control in Europe

Abstract : The history of cannabis has been the subject of numerous books in recent years (see Fankhauser, this monograph). One of the many historical perspectives that have been explored is cannabis's social, political and legislative history. This chapter provides a brief history of controls on cannabis, and analyses a series of recent government enquiries that have informed legislative reform, particularly in Europe. Opinions are divided in this area. Liberalisers and cannabis advocacy groups -- the key Internet publishers of information on the issue -- continue to claim cannabis is a recently controlled substance and 'natural product', and have espoused a number of theories to explain its prohibition (1). Yet the historical picture is more complex. Use of cannabis as a psychoactive drug has stirred controversy for centuries. And finding the most appropriate control system has interested professionals, politicians and governments from the beginning. Today, international drugs conventions recommend signatories to designate, under national legislation, the most stringent control over cannabis. However, some countries have used the granted discretion to move away from such recommendations. A cross-reading of governmental enquiries shows that, while cannabis is considered a potentially dangerous substance, its dangers, in comparison with other controlled substances, may have been overstated and alternative forms of sanctions, such as civil sanctions, fines or compulsory health assessments, have been recommended in place of criminal penalties. European countries' laws or prosecution policies seem to be broadly in accord with these government enquiries. Nonetheless, more liberal positions have attracted some concerns, expressed in particular at UN level, on the grounds that leniency on cannabis can endanger the overall international effort against drugs. Accordingly, the latest developments in some countries seem to tip the balance back towards a new attention on restrictive measures.
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Brendan Hughes, Danilo Ballotta, Henri Bergeron. Cannabis control in Europe. Griffiths, Paul. A cannabis reader: global issues and local experiences, EMCDDA, pp.99-117, 2008. ⟨hal-01032452⟩

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