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    enfoque subnacional España políticas de drogas política ICEERS study subnational approach drug policy

    Subnational Approach to Drug Policy


    Better to ask for forgiveness than to ask for permission: the subnational approach to drug policy in Spain

    Constanza Sánchez, and Michael Collins.

    Global Drug Policy Observatory



    About the study

    This report, written by Constanza Sánchez (ICEERS) and Michael Collins (Drug Policy Alliance) and published by the Global Drug Policy Observatory, offers international audiences valuable insights into recent developments in Spanish drug policy, with an emphasis on reforms at the regional level, tensions with the central government, and potential lessons applicable to other countries and contexts.

    Although little discussed, and sometimes difficult to understand due to the complex political and legal landscape, much can be learned from Spain’s subnational approach to drug policy reform.

    The Spanish approach can best be understood as a set of autonomous communities exercising their regional powers to implement a drug policy based on harm reduction principles and a rejection of the prohibitionist approach.



    “This report aims to contribute to reversing the lack of knowledge about this case, shedding light on its particularities for an international audience. To this end, it begins by describing the Spanish approach, before putting forward some hypotheses as to why it is much less well known than that of its neighbor, Portugal. This is followed by a review of the history of drug policies in Spain and the development of this approach, and then an analysis of some of the current challenges facing Spain in this area. Finally, it will discuss the impact that Spanish drug policy has had in other contexts, and how Spain is viewed both by other countries and by United Nations drug control agencies.  
    That Spanish drug policies have hardly been explored by international experts is understandable for several reasons. It is a complicated approach and is not easy to label, as may be the case with the Portuguese model. However, it is very useful to look at the innovative measures undertaken by Spain. The Spanish political system — with a central government and autonomous communities — can provide some lessons for drug policy reform at the global level, especially in those contexts where local, state or regional authorities have extensive decision-making power in matters such as public health. In particular, as will be discussed, there are many similarities between the Spanish and U.S. systems: both have introduced drug policy reforms, with the autonomous communities and states, respectively, taking the initiative in the face of frequent opposition from the central or federal government.”


    Link to the article


    Contact ICEERS Research team


    Photo by Jonnelle Yankovich on Unsplash.

    Categories: Studies & papers , Drug policies
    Tags: cannabis policy , regulation , scientific research , study , risk reduction , drug policy , global , Spain , harm reduction