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Doctor or drug dealer? International legal provisions for the legitimate handling of drugs of abuse

Pills on the table next to a controlled substance dangerous unless used as directed


Cathal T Gallagher, Sanaa K Atik, Libin Isse, Sanpreet K Mann


February 3, 2020

In this article, we compare how five jurisdictions (the USA; UK; Canada; New Zealand; and Australia) balance the disparate objectives of preventing the misuse of drugs and allowing their legal use for medical purposes. The statutory law underpinning each country’s method of categorising drugs depicts distinctive outlooks from the different jurisdictions, as each works towards these same goals. In examining how each country’s legislation deals with controlled substances, initial consideration will be given to whether drugs are categorised once only, or twice: once for dealing with their criminal misuse; and again for ensuring their safe medicinal use. In effectively dealing with criminal activities associated with drugs of abuse, Australia’s system of imposing penalties based on the quantity of a drug possessed, rather than on its grouping with other drugs of a broadly similar type offers the most flexibility. In terms of managing the legitimate use of such drugs, however, it is perhaps the least flexible of the four jurisdictions operating parallel systems of categorisation. The greatest level of flexibility is offered by Canada and the UK, which have functionally very similar protocols in this respect.

This research was published in the Drug Science, Policy and Law Journal the definitive source of evidence-based information and comment for academics, scientists, policymakers, frontline workers and the general public on drugs and related issues

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