How to create solutions to Drug trafficking without an international legislation?

Gabriel Henrique de Paula Alves

Assistant Director of UNODC

One of the biggest problems to solve Drug trafficking is the lack of international legislation to advise or to obligate the States to insure measures to prohibit or to treat the action of drug users as crime. As there exists a lot of legislation about the production and consumption of drugs among the countries, there are nations where their citizens are allowed to use certain drugs under regulation by the State, like Uruguay (2013), Argentina (2009), Ecuador (2013), Paraguay (1988), Jamaica (2015) and the Netherlands; in other countries this kind of action is considered a crime, and, in some cases such as Indonesia, there is the punishment of death sentence. (FOLHA DE S. PAULO, 2015).

First of all, the UNODC and other organizations, governmental or non-governmental, cannot obligate the States to agree about a determined resolution because the nations are sovereign. This way, the countries decide the way of their politics in the world; in another words, there is no power above the sovereignty of the states or government above government (MORGENTHAU, 1994).

For this reason, the nations may accept or not a suggested measure to handle the legislation on drugs, and, because of that, UNODC and other organizations have obstacles to create resolutions that please all of the different states. In spite of that, the UNODC reported in 2014 the “crime recorded by the authorities in relation to personal use and trafficking of drugs assessed separately has shown an increase over the period 2003-2012” and “the large majority of drug use offences are associated with cannabis” (UNODC, 2014).

However, the proportion of drug offenders who were drug users with recorded offences for personal use has remained stable, given the increased number of users during that period. The majority of persons arrested for or suspected of drug offences are men; the involvement of women in drug offences varies according to drug type, reflecting the drugs of preference among women. The highest percentage of women arrestees or suspects can be observed in relations to crimes involving sedatives and tranquillizers (25 per cent) (UNODC, 2014).

Therefore, without an international legislation the control of drug trafficking becomes more difficult and the states make pressure among them to solve this problem, mainly in countries non-developed where the violence and criminal organization are more present (UNODC, 2014). Another problem is the nations which decriminalized the consumption but if a citizens get caught by the police, they could be arrested and the measure it is function of the state (EXAME, 2015).

Below, there is a list of some countries and their legislation about the consumption and produce of drugs. It is important to remind how doesn’t exist an international legislation for drugs the states can formulate their own rules, but it must respect the human rights and the treaties which have been signed and ratified by these countries.


In Colombia, since 2011, the use and possession of drugs are decriminalized, but there is a constitutional prohibition for cases that are not considered personal use, and there are also criteria that differentiate user from trafficker. A Colombian citizen can have access to a maximum of 20 g and is allowed to planting, but with the limit of 20 seedlings. (EXAME, 2015).


In Peru, the use and possession of drugs are decriminalized, but it must respect the law, which sets the limit of 8 g for personal use. If a citizen violates this and is seen as a threat to the population, he or she can be arrested or hospitalized under compulsory treatment. People are not allowed to plant. (EXAME, 2015).

United States of America

In the US, a federal law has some guidelines, but it is up to each state to create legislation for drugs. There are states that have already decriminalized the consumption of some drugs and that even regulate the market of this substance for recreational use. (EXAME, 2015).


The first country in the world to regulate the whole marijuana cycle and decriminalized the use and possession of drugs. There isn’t a limit fixed by the government to distinguish users and traffickers, but the law allows the amount of 40 grams for personal use. (EXAME, 2015).


In Bolivia, the situation is more complicated because the consumption and the possession of drugs are allowed but the law authorizes the compulsory hospitalization and the government didn’t fixed quantities that difference traffickers and users (EXAME, 2015).


In Sweden, use is not decriminalized, but it is not treated as an expressive crime. However, the possession of drugs for personal use is considered a crime and the penalties vary between six months and six years in imprisonment and it is the case law that defines the criteria ( the weight and nature of the drug seized) of distinction between trafficking and consumer (EXAME, 2015).


The government of Canada stringent with the consumption of drugs because the use and possession of drugs for personal use are not decriminalized and there is a law to distinguish what is trafficking and what is personal use of marijuana, whose limit is up to 30 grams. The citizens that disturb the law will receive the penalty of six months in prison and a thousand dollars fine. (EXAME, 2015).

United Kingdom

In United Kingdom, drug use is punishable by administrative sanctions (with the exception of opium, which is considered as a crime) and possession of drugs for self-consumption is not decriminalized. In the case of the UK, penalties depend on the expressive possession of drugs. If the drug is considered to be strong, the penalty for possession for personal use may be up to seven years. (EXAME, 2015).


 EXAME. Como 47 países tratam o uso e o porte de maconha. Disponível em: <;. Acesso em: 29 set. 2017.

FOLHA DE S.PAULO. Conheça os países onde o porte de drogas para uso pessoal não é crime. Disponível em: <;. Acesso em: 29 set. 2017.

MEARSHEIMER, John J.. The False Promise of International Institutions. The MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, EUA, v. 19, n. 3, p. 5-49, fev. 1994. Disponível em: <;. Acesso em: 02 out. 2017.

UNODC. World drug report 2014. Disponível em: <;. Acesso em: 29 set. 2017.

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