The Croatian government voted last Friday to decriminalise possession of drugs for personal use, while increasing penalties for those convicted of drug dealing.
The new law will come into effect on January 1st, at which point those found in possession of drugs will either receive a fine of up to €2,680 (or around £2180), be sent for rehabilitation, or ordered to do community service. Previously, anyone convicted of drugs possession could be sentenced to up to 3 years in jail.
This new law is an exciting development for drugs policy Croatia, but the practical implementation of these measures will be crucial.
One worry is that since so much of the penalty is up to the discretion of the police (and with such potentially huge fines) it could actually result in a net-widening effect, especially if those who cannot pay the fine end up in prison anyway.
Another worry is that the threshold amount of drugs regarded as solely for possession versus dealing might be set too low (or too vulnerable to judicial interpretation), resulting in more people put in prison for longer terms despite what seems to be surface liberalisation.
The important factor here is that the law change is made in the right spirit and with the full support of the prosecuting authorities – and only time will tell whether this has occurred in Croatia.