MOSCOW, June 5 (RIA Novosti) – Russian President Vladimir Putin voiced Russia’s concerns on Wednesday over other countries’ initiatives to legalize soft drugs, and the future withdrawal of international forces from Afghanistan, the world’s largest heroin producer.
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“We consider it essential to fight all kinds of drugs. We observe with concern the relaxation in laws by some countries moving towards the legalization of so-called soft drugs,” Putin said at the annual International Drug Enforcement Conference (IDEC), which opened in Moscow on Wednesday. He did not specify which countries he meant.
The Organization of American States released a study in May calling for a serious discussion on legalizing marijuana, which was rejected by President Obama. Last September, Guatemala’s new president, Otto Perez Molina, called for the legalization of drugs in a regulated market, Fox News reported.
Recreational marijuana use was legalized last year in two American states, Colorado and Washington, and a further 17 US states have legalized use of marijuana for medical use, according to medicalmarijuana.org. The move was criticized in a 2012 report by the UN’s International Narcotics Control Board (INCB).
Putin reiterated his previous statements, describing the trafficking of opiates from Afghanistan as an international problem threatening the EU, the United States and Canada.
Russia has previously criticized the drug eradication efforts of the US and NATO forces in Afghanistan. Russian state officials have also warned that the situation is likely to worsen as the international military mission (ISAF) accomplishes its withdrawal from the Central Asian state in 2014.
“The consequences of this step might be sad, if not tragic,” Putin said on Wednesday. He cited UN data showing the area of opium plantations in Afghanistan reached 154,000 hectares last year, up 18 percent on the year before.
According to state drug control officials, some 8.5 million people use drugs more or less regularly in Russia. The vast majority of those drugs come from the Central Asia, the Russian government says.