Drug use is a topic of discussion around the world; it occurs in almost every country. While the specific kinds of drugs vary from place to place, the three most common are marijuana, heroin, and cocaine. Whether for medical, religious or recreational purposes, drugs are a part of many cultures. What varies in these cultures are the prevention and punishment for illegal use.
United States: Drug policy in the U.S. states that anyone manufacturing, distributing, selling or using illegal drugs will be prosecuted; it favors punishment over prevention. Each of the states then have penalty guidelines. These penalties usually include some amount of jail time and fine which vary depending on the type and amount of drug.
Australia: As in the United States, Australians start educating their children early on the problems drugs can cause. Starting in middle school, the children are already introduced to the dangers of drug use. Like in the United States, Australia has federal and state laws in place for possessing, using, making or selling them, or driving under the influence: marijuana, cocaine, ecstasy, and heroin. It is also illegal for shopkeepers to seel any product to a customer if the shopkeeper believes it will be used as an inhalant; however, it is not illegal to use inhalants. The punishments vary across the territories in Australia but basically, the larger amount of drugs in possession, the more severe the punishment will be.
Netherlands: While here in the United States drug abuse is a criminal issue, the Netherlands treats it as a health issue; like obesity or cancer would be. Rather than imprisoning the offender, the person is put in rehab. In this country, more money is spent on the education and treatment of drug abuse than is spent on courtroom fees. The Netherlands is also the only known country to decriminalize the use and sale of marijuana. “The sale of cannabis [marijuana] is illegal, yet coffee shops are tolerated in their sale of cannabis, if they adhere to certain criteria: no advertising, no sale of hard drugs, not selling to persons under the age of 18, not causing public nuisance and not selling more than five grams per transaction” [AHOJ-G criteria]. In other words, Netherland coffee shops sell more than just the average cup of joe.
United Kingdom: Unlike in the Netherlands, if someone is caught in possession with the intent to sell, he or she is more than likely to serve a life sentence in prison. Under the Misuse of Drugs Act of 1971, these are considered punishable: “possession of a controlled drug unlawfully, possession of a controlled drug with intent to supply it, supplying or offering to supply a controlled drug (even where no charge is made for the drug), allowing premises you occupy or manage to be used unlawfully for the purpose of producing or supplying controlled drugs”. In the United Kingdom, there are three classes and depending on what class the offender is charged with determines what action is taken.
Switzerland: Switzerland is by far the most liberal in drug policies. In fact, the government provides what are called “safe injection sites”. These safe rooms give an addict the opportunity to shoot up with a clean needle in a nonthreatening environment. The Switzerland way is to monitor drug use rather than put a stop to it completely.
Germany: Germany, on the other hand, has serious penalties for sale and possession of a large quantity of drugs. However, no action is taken for small quantities of drugs for sale or in possession.
Harsh or helping, restrictions are in place for everyday citizens to regulate drug use. One common problem shared by the world, but with many different ways of solving it.