The country’s anti-drugs agency has drafted changes to the Criminal Code that would see repeat drug users go to jail.
The agency proposes to outlaw drug abuse, which covers any use of drugs prescribed for medical reasons. Those caught using drugs will be either sent to prison or sent to obligatory rehabilitation centers.
“Passing prison sentences for drug users is not our target,” said Sergey Yakovkev, aide to the head of Russia’s anti-drugs agency. “We want it to be an additional legal mechanism that would cause people to quit drug abuse.”
In 2004, the laws on drug use were significantly relaxed. When caught red-handed, drug users could simply pay a fine between 500 and 1,000 rubles or be detained for a maximum of 15 days. Instead of paying a fine, an offender could agree to call a doctor and go through voluntary treatment.
Annually, Russian anti-drug services confiscate more than three tons of heroin and arrest more than 100,000 people, while 7,500 people die of drug overdoses. In total, there are around two to six million drug users in Russia (according to different estimates) – five per cent of the able-bodied population.
The criminalization of drug abuse has been discussed for years, and the subject is still a source of much debate.
“Any civilized country pulling itself out of a drug crisis has done the following: on the one hand, it has criminalized drug use, while on the other, it has opened the door to medical and social rehabilitation,” Evgeny Roizman, director at City Without Drugs Foundation, told RT. “This has had a huge impact. But since we don’t have any law on compulsory medical treatment, this measure will only go halfway.”
“This idea is despicable for two reasons,” Oleg Zhukov, doctor and member of Public Chamber, told RT. “First, I think it’s immoral to jail a person for being sick. And second, this measure will only increase the number of drug addicts. When they get out of prison, people have a criminal mentality based on violence. And violence in any form is exactly what pushes them to drugs.”