Mr. George Zazulin,
ECAD, St. Petersburg, Russia
Liberal Spiral in Russian Drug Policy -
A Twelve Year Period
An Address by Mr. George Zazulin
to the Conference of the European Cities Against Drugs
April 25, 2002
Dear Ladies and Gentlemen
Russia as an open society already has her own experiences of fight against drugs. From Soviet Union up to Putin, both mistakes have been made and correct steps takenů.At the end of 1990 a fatal mistake was made. A wrong political decision was made at the highest governmental level regarding drug policy (namely placing the right to consume drugs on an equality with human rights.). On October 29th, 1990, the Soviet Committee of the Constitutional supervision submitted a Conclusion according to which compulsory treatment for drug addicts was essentially limited, and drug use was equated with a human right, and consequently a person's individual concern.
- Subsequently the decriminalisation legislation excluded from active normative documents any legal liability for consumption of illegal drugs and drug intoxication. The critical point is clear only to criminologists. There is in fact administrative liabilities for heavy alcoholic intoxication in public places. But nobody listened to the experts. This is not possible to combine with a safe society. In the country as a whole there have been public building crises, economic shocks and so on. And the drug political situation was like a fire that nobody could stop. On January 1st 2001, the number of registered drug addicts was more than 269 thousand persons, that is 9 times more than in 1990. Scientific research shows however that no less than 2.5 million Russians were actually involved in drug addiction, that is 1.7 % of the country's population. Drug addiction is rapidly increasing among youth. The vast majority are under 30 years old. During the past decade, the number of crimes connected to illegal drug trafficking increased by 15 times. Young and unemployed are the largest group involved in criminal activities.
- These figures explain why we have an AIDS epidemic.
- In the end, the authorities could no longer turn a blind eye to the fact that the country was going down the drug drain. The first cautious step to correct the past mistakes was taken in 1998, when a New Federal law was passed. One clause of the Law prohibited non-medical use of drugs. Another law forbade drug propaganda in the mass media. In this way the legislation had taken the first steps in the "new" old direction, in the direction of United Nations Conventions on Drugs. First on July 1st this year the new Russian drug law will come into force. It provides a 15 day penalty or arrest for consumption of illegal drugs. Last time this law existed was on October 25, 1990. But from July this year, the twelve year period of liberal drug policy will be ended. The consequences of past mistakes are however awful. For sure, Russia will get over them in time. But there must not be any more wrong decisions. We cannot afford the scale of trouble they cause.
- What should we do to avoid the same mistakes in 10 years time, or in 100 years time? What should we do to avoid going through the same disaster twice?
- To promote creation a drug Committee under the President responsible for drug policy in Russia.
- To include a 32-hour course developed by ECAD in Russia in higher journalistic studies.
- To support and develop non-governmental organisations to work with complex measures to avoid past tragic mistakes
- The tactics remain the same as before: We do realise that the Country has not overcome all crises, is economically weak, police salaries are extremely low and so on. Therefore we cannot expect fast results from the new Administrative Code. But it is quite certain, however, that the twelve year liberal spiral on drug policies is now over. In time, Russian drug policy will become truly restrictive in adherence to the UN Conventions on Drugs.
Thank you for your attention.