Poland Edges Toward Drug Decriminalization

In the Polish Sejm (parliament) last Friday, members voted to amend their draconian, decade-old drug laws. The move is designed to draw a distinction between users and dealers, and could result in no charges being filed against users, but slightly stiffer penalties for dealers and people holding large quantities of dope.

Under the current law, people possessing even the smallest amounts of illegal drugs can be sentenced to up to three years in prison. The amendment would enable prosecutors to avoid bringing charges against people holding small amounts of drugs who have not been previously convicted of a drug crime. Prosecutors would also make a determination on whether a person is drug dependent, and could order treatment in lieu of prosecution and imprisonment.

The measure passed the Sejm on a vote of 258 to 159, with six abstentions. It must still be approved by the upper house and signed into law by the president.

Progress on reforming Poland’s drug laws came only after years of delay. A team of experts appointed by the former justice minister had drawn up the amendments more than two years ago.

The Sejm was also the object of a concerted civil society campaign to liberalize the drug laws. Celebrity chef Robert Maklowicz created a Facebook video, Cook Our Children a Better Future, arguing for reform, while at the same time, 71 Polish artists sent an open letter to the Sejm seeking a review of Polish drug policy.

Former Polish president Aleksander Kwasniewski, sociologist Zygmunt Bauman, and renowned international human rights expert Wiktor Osiatynski also joined the fray, signing a January open letter coordinated by Krytyka Polityczna, an influential group of liberal thinkers. Over 100 organizations from Poland and worldwide recently signed a petition coordinated by the Polish Drug Policy Network.

For many advocates, the proposed reforms don’t go far enough. There is also concern that the quantity guidelines for determining what constitutes personal use have yet to be set. But there are also rumblings of discontent from the other side of the issue. “Which mafia did you support today?” asked conservative Law and Justice Party member Beata Kampa.

[Editor’s Note: Kampa’s comment presumably was made without irony, but is actually highly ironic. While decriminalization without a legal supply won’t undo the mafias, it is prohibition of drugs that allows mafias to earn illicit drug profits.]

– Article originally from NORML

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