Drug Policy‐making in Metropolitan Areas: Urban Conflicts and Governance


This article retraces the emergence and shows the implications of current regulative frameworks in the field of urban drug policy. Framed by an analytical perspective that is based on the concept of urban governance, the article focuses on the processes by which cooperation and coordination between various conflicting governmental and non‐governmental agencies are achieved to address drug‐related problems in the major agglomerations of Switzerland, as well as in the metropolitan areas of Amsterdam, Glasgow and Frankfurt am Main. In the first part, it is shown that these problems are structured and debated along a conflict between advocates of the public‐health approach and those of the public‐order approach in the field of drug policy, as well as, to a lesser extent, a conflict between core cities and fringe municipalities about spillover effects related to the provision of services for users of illegal drugs. It is argued that this stems from a general tension between the goals of an attractiveness policy aimed at enhancing local economic development, and the necessities of social policy needed to address urban social problems. The second part examines the emergence of mechanisms of governance aimed at addressing drug‐related urban problems. It is argued that a ‘social public order’ regime emerged to regulate drug‐related urban problems, controlling urban practices of drug users by a combination of police and social work. In addition, it is held that in Switzerland, where social policy is traditionally confined to municipalities, these mechanisms of governance contributed to the emergence of metropolitan regions as new territorial actors in the field of drug policy.