What the EMCDDA calls 'trafficking' offences may include production or cultivation, import and export, transporting, offering, selling and/or possession, with intent to distribute or supply, or the concept of acting 'for gain' or 'on a commercial basis'. Therefore, we have not included production or cultivation for personal use. Various aggravating factors in the offence may include the involvement of large quantities, drugs considered very dangerous to health, the aim to make substantial profit, involvement of (organised) groups or gangs, abuse of position by a professional person, or recidivism.

Selling drugs to acquire money to finance a drug habit is a recognised behaviour among drug users and is considered an offence in all EU Member States. In some, these 'user-dealers' or 'addict-pushers' occupy a middle ground between the serious offence of drug distribution and the more medical problem of drug addiction. As such, they may be specifically identified in national laws – if not, it is usual for the judge to take this situation into account when sentencing. Addiction is seen as a mitigating circumstance, but on the other hand the type and quantity of the drug sold or distributed, and recidivism, may be seen as aggravating factors. In general, selling drugs is always prosecuted, but wide ranges are prescribed for sentencing.

At European level, following the conclusions of the 1999 Tampere European Council that called on the Member States to adopt additional legal provisions to combat trafficking in narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances, the Council adopted in October 2004 a Framework-Decision laying down minimum provisions on the constituent elements of criminal acts and penalties in the field of illicit drug trafficking.

Please click here to access the penalties country by country.

Keep up-to-date with drug policy developments by subscribing to the IDPC Monthly Alert.