Drug use and possession

With a zero-tolerance approach to illegal drugs, the toughest in Western Europe, the Swedish government treats all drugs equally, from cannabis to heroin, under a single law. Based on the UN Conventions it aims to reduce the supply and demand, treatment and control, focusing on prevention with a vision of a drug-free society.

Under law, use and possession are punishable according to three degrees of severity: minor, ordinary and serious. Minor offences consist of fines or up to six months’ imprisonment; ordinary offences up to three years; and serious offences two to 10 years’ imprisonment; with possible penalties for recidivists for up to 18 years. The degree of offence takes the nature and quantity of drugs, and other circumstances, into consideration.

Minor offences are reserved for the mildest offence; only involving personal use or possession. If drugs were passed on or the drugs were in possession with the purpose of passing them on, the minor concept should in principle, be excluded.

Stop and search law allows police to stop those they suspect to be under the influence of drugs following training in recognizing the signs and symptoms, and could enforce compulsory blood and urine tests. They have a zero tolerance policy for driving under the influence and perform random tests on suspicion of drugs.

Customs and police also have the right to seize new synthetic drugs which are not yet covered by law, if suspected to be related to drug abuse.


Identical to the penalties for use and possession, drug trafficking offences are considered either ordinary or serious offences. Special consideration is given as to whether it formed a part of an activity on a commercial basis, involved particularly large quantities of drugs or was otherwise of a particularly dangerous or ruthless nature. All circumstances must be weighed up in each individual case assessment.

Substitution treatment

With several alternatives to a prison sentence, offenders can receive a suspended sentence or probation order which could be passed by court, when appropriate, if the sanction goes beyond a fine. For the more serious crimes, however, it is only possible to sentence imprisonment or treatment.

Drug addicts who have committed a drug offence can be sentences to treatment according to a ‘treatment contract’ whereby a real contract between the addict and the Municipality gives rights and obligations to both parties. The addict must need and be motivated to undergo treatment; the habit contributed to the crime; and the offence should not be serious. Abstinence-based interventions form the greater part of Sweden’s treatment provision, closely tied to the notion of a drug free society.

Under general health laws, substitution treatment is permitted but medical substitution substances must be given in treatment centers by specialist doctors.


Crimes connected with precursors, depending on the graveness of the crime or if an attempt, preparation, aiding or conspiracy of a drug offence may be punishable by day-fines or up to ten years of imprisonment. Unlawful import or export may be a smuggling offence, punishable by day-fines or up to six years imprisonment, or when documentation, labeling and record-keeping has not been fulfilled, a punishment may be day-fines or up to one years imprisonment.

What chemicals are considered precursors is governed under the Ordinance on the Control of Narcotic Drugs, together with permits for manufacturing etc, issued by the Medical Products Agency.

Tobacco and alcohol

No persons under the age of 18 are allowed to purchase tobacco (until 1997 there was no age restriction). Alcoholic beverages are divided into three classes; those with less than 2.25% ABV (low-alcohol beer and cider) are sold without any age limit; beverages less than 3.5% ABV (stronger low-alcohol beer and cider) may be bought from the age of 18; beverages with more than 3.5% ABV (beer, cider, wine and spirits) may be bought from the age of 18 in restaurants, bars and nightclubs, and in state-run stores ‘Systembolaget’ from the age of 20.