Will Sweden rethink its zero-tolerance anti-drugs policy?

When it comes to anti-drug policies, Sweden is surprisingly hardline. But one of the country's highest ranking police officers has suggested it may be time to overhaul the laws.

Catherine Edwards
Catherine Edwards NewsMavens, Sweden
Will Sweden rethink its zero-tolerance anti-drugs policy? - NewsMavens
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Why this story matters:

Lennart Karlsson, the chairman of the Swedish Narcotics Police Officers Association has suggested Sweden should take some cues from its neighbour Norway, where "safe consumption rooms" already exist and the government recently announced a restructuring of its drugs policy.

Current policy is based on the stated goal of a "drug-free society", but of course this goal is a long way from reality. The law doesn't distinguish between different classes of drugs, i.e. "hard" and "soft."

Even possession of a small amount for personal use can result in a fine and criminal record.

More and more European countries seem to recognise that treatment rather than sanctions can often be more effective when it comes to those suffering from addiction.

It's especially interesting to observe this development in Sweden. Though liberal attitudes tend to prevail when it comes to areas like gender roles and immigration/integration policy, in many ways the state exerts significant control over people's private lives. Another example of this is alcohol, which can only be bought from the state-run monopoly, and only during restricted hours.

Details from the story:

  • Sweden has the second highest rate of deaths linked to drug use in the EU
  • In 2016, the Swedish government removed the right for municipalities to veto the creation of syringe exchange programmes
  • 2016 was also the first time in ten years that Sweden saw a reduction in the number of deaths linked to drug use
  • The year before, the UN had said Sweden "lagged behind" other countries in its policy towards drugs


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The information and views set out on this website are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official opinion of the European Union. Neither the European Union institutions and bodies nor any person acting on their behalf may be held responsible for the use which may be made of the information contained therein.

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