By Constanza Sánchez & Michael Collins

In recent years, the international debate on drug policy reform has intensified, and with it has come a productive exchange of information between academics, activists and advocates on the diverse models and approaches in different countries. Portugal’s decriminalization model is the subject of numerous reports and articles, the legalization of cannabis in a number of U.S. states and Uruguay is heavily studied. Heroin-Assisted Treatment (HAT) in Switzerland is often discussed, and the Czech Republic’s progressive drug policy has been much heralded. On the outside looking in is Spain, a country with a curious mix of cannabis clubs, decriminalization of drug possession for personal use, innovative harm reduction policies, drug checking, and more. It also occupies an interesting geographical position as a transit hub for drugs entering Europe from the Americas and North Africa. Yet in mainstream drug policy discussions, little is known of the Spanish approach to drug policy, with the possible exception of cannabis clubs.

This policy brief intends to help change that, by shedding light on the Spanish approach. We will begin by describing what the Spanish approach is, before hypothesizing on why it is so much lesser known than its neighbour – Portugal. We will then look at the history of drug policy in Spain and how this approach developed, before analyzing some of the current drug policy challenges Spain faces. Finally, we will look at what impact Spanish drug policy has had on other countries, and how Spain is viewed both by other countries and by the United Nations’ drug policy bodies.

You can find the key points brought out in this policy brief there: