The UK Government have recently released the findings of a comparative investigation of the drug policies and laws of 11 countries. The Drugs: International Comparators report aimed to assess the effectiveness of drug policy internationally and consider the implications on UK policy.
Countries examined embody a range of drug policy; from Japan's "zero-tolerance" policies to Portugal's decriminalisation. Australia was not covered in the comparison, but is referred to in reference to drug courts, drug consumption rooms, heroin assisted treatment
Commentators have been quick to jump on the suggestion that the report offers that severity of punishment has little effect on numbers of people using drugs. The report's authors however, are more reluctant to make such firm conclusions. They suggest that whilst a country such as Portugal that made significant changes to their drug policies in 1999, including decriminalisation, has experienced declines in drug use and related harm, it is hard to separate the effect of decriminalisation from a general policy reform of adopting a harm minimisation approach to illicit drugs.
The report has caused a storm of debate in the UK over the last week, with some calling for decriminalisation as a logical outcome of the report, whilst others claim the report does not provide sufficient evidence for policy change.
You can read the report here - Drugs: International Comparators
... and a Google News search on the topic will supply you with enough reading material for the next month.