Drug policy debates: how are routine monitoring data used?
Evidence-based decision making is one of the core values enunciated in contemporary public policy. Policy formation on drugs and addiction in European Union and Member States’ drugs policies is obstensibly established on scientific information that describes the nature, extent, consequences and responses to illicit drug use. Therefore, on the face of it, drugs policy in Europe should largely be determined by the type of factual, objective, reliable and comparable information produced by the EMCDDA and the Reitox network of national focal points that this agency coordinates. Yet we know that, while evidence is an important part of the process of policy change, policymaking is fundamentally a political activity. This is as it should be in democratic societies. We also need to consider that, while evidence may be rigorous and systematic, it can be used selectively or in a misleading way in political debates.
This session will focus on the policy process around changes to the criminal status of the possession of drugs for personal use in three countries that have amended their legislation, or have considered legislative change in this area. Although the governments of these EU member states have each taken a different approach to this issue, they have all used scientific data to support different positions in what has frequently proved to be contentious public discussion.